Gopalan Nair’s 1st Court Mention
I appeared in Court 23 this morning at 855am to defend Gopalan Nair.
Having learnt of his plight and arrest by the Singapore Police Force on 31st May 2008 for insulting Justice Belinda Ang Saw Ean on Sunday morning 1st June 2008 , i decided to appear in Court to defend him. I went to see that justice was being done. I was given more than what i could expect, more than what could meet my eye in the usual case. More than what i wanted to see.
The Court mention was fixed for 9am sharp. I saw Mr. Gopalan Nair in the dock, he waved to me. I spoke to him and he told me of how he was arrested. I reassured him that i would do my best for him. I met Ms Julie Kavanagh Counsul from the Consular Office United States Embassy. She was there to ensure that Mr. Gopalan Nair was given a fair trial. I explained in brief to her what to expect from the proceedings and Mr. Nair’s concerns which i found out moments earlier.
Police Prosecutor Wee Kim Chock was tasked to handle the case. Upon obtaining a copy of the Charge from him, i found out that the case would be stood down to 1030am because the Investigating Officer was conversing with the Attorney-General’s Chambers.
My My. What a serious case this was. Section 13D(1)(a) carried a maximum punishment of S$5,000/- fine or to imprisonment for up to 1 year. Yet it was found under the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order & Nuisance) Act.
The Accused had been arrested on saturday night close to 9pm and kept in custody for the last 36 hours or so and at least one statement was taken in investigation, at least one cautioned statement was administered. At least also one charge was successfully drafted and readied for Court.
Many a time, prosecutional operations ran by the book. Glitches are sometimes seen. Many a time such glitches were more of papers not being ready and that the accused and his counsel were waiting in Court but yet the papers and the charges have yet to arrive.
Today however i learnt a new thing, that the prosecution needed its Investigating Officer to converse with the Attorney-General’s Chambers and seek more time for the prosecution to decide how to proceeded with the Accused.
The Court mentions started roughly at 915 in Court 23. After a while the turn came to me, i mentioned Gopalan’s case. The Prosecutor requested for a stand down for the reason stated. The matter was then stood down to 1030am. I went for breakfast with Seelan, Kaixiong and JG. In the midst of breakfast we sent Kaixiong running after Dr. Chee to pass a book which i had borrowed from him back to him.
At 1030am i was back in Court. The Police Investigating Officer had yet to return from his long chat at the AGC, the matter was then requested for stand down to 230pm. I acceded again. I however managed to get the prosecution to offer and the Court to agree to bail at S$5,000 in one surety. As we left the Court it was on my mind who would be willing to pledge property for the S$5,000/- bail.
I made a quick dash to the High Court where Dr. Chee Soon Juan and Ms Chee Siok Chin were being cited for contempt of Justice Belinda Ang Saw Ean. There i met Mr. JB Jeyaretnam who was arguing for Dr. Chee. Mr Ng Teck Siong was there as well.
As i made my way up to level 4 of the Supreme Court, i received a call from my office that Court 23 Subordinate Courts wanted to mention Gopalan’s case in 15 minutes and they had called to ask if i was able to make it there. I found that to be extremely untimely and ridiculous, having just set foot in the High Court for less than 5 minutes am i supposed to rush back to Subordinate Courts with such a short notice. I asked my secretary to inform that i could only be back at 230pm and so i went to witness the contempt proceedings against Dr. Chee Soon Juan.
As expected, Dr. Chee was found guilty of contempt and sentenced to 12 days jail. Siok Chin was given 10 days. I then decided to make my way back to the Subordinate Courts. I reached the Subordinate Courts early, i went for a milo at the Bar Room and thereafter proceeded to People’s Park for some food. I found none to my liking. I had decided to turn back and make my way back to the Courts when i heard someone call out my name. I looked up. It was Uncle Yap.
Uncle Yap sat through lunch with me watching me devour curry chicken with rice. Not something to die for but certainly beats the stuff in the prison for this i am sure. I bought Uncle Yap a drink. We enjoyed the lunch together and i was sure that it was not because of the food. We then made our way back to Court.
I ran into Mr Maurice Neo in Court, Maurice and Uncle Yap showed me two versions of the Today Newspaper. One carried an article of a Man insulting a public servant. One carred an article of a man threatening a judge. Talk about doublespeak and attempts to sway public opinion over here. I smiled to myself. Gopalan is making waves after all.
At 230pm in Court 23, DPP Francis Ng appears and the first thing he says to me is that they were making an application for further remand of Gopalan Nair for an additional 7 days. I told him that i would object to it.
When the Court sat at 230pm, the DPP made the application for a further remand for 7 days. I objected to it. The Magistrate Ms Miranda Yeo asked me to submit on the relevant Section 198 of the Criminal Procedure Code, i apologised for not being prepared to address the Court on the same at such short notice having known of the application to further remand the Accused only less than 10 minutes earlier. The Court then stood down the matter to 4pm for me to conduct some research and return to address the Court at 4pm.
As i was explaining the situation to Gopalan’s supporters outside the Court, i was informed by the Police officer that Gopalan wanted to speak to me. I then went back into court. As the Court was in session, i sought permission from the Magistrate before i spoke to Gopalan. The Magistrate directed the female police prosecutor to contact the DPP to ask if there were any objections. After some time the case was rementioned and the word was that the DPP had no objections.
I crouched on the side as i spoke to Gopalan. Gopalan rattled off a list of concerns. I tried to note down every single one of them, upon that being done and re-assuring him i left to Level 7 of the Subordinate Courts to do my legal research.
I am back at approximately half an hour later. I found the United States Embassy Consul Ms Julie Kavanagh waiting and i explained what i was doing for Gopalan to her.
In Court at 4pm, i stated my objections in law to the application by the Prosecution to further remand Gopalan Nair. My reasons were that Section 198 of the Criminal Procedure Code should not apply to this situation. The long and short of the argument was that Section 198 was found in Chapter XXII of the Criminal Procedure Code. Chapter XXII pertained to general provisions as to inquiries and trials. This was not a trial situation here and that there was no reasonable cause for an order for a further remand. The Detailed arguments will be set out in a separate post tomorrow morning.
DPP Francis Ng mde some rebuttals and I made a reply.
My arguments made little headway with the Magistrate. The Order for further remand was given. This was in stark contrast to the bail offered and granted in the morning only hours earlier. We ended the session probably close to 435pm.
A simple 1st mention for Gopalan Nair scheduled for 9am ended at 435pm. I spent my entire day outside office. For the 1st time in more than 9 years as a lawyer, i saw a criminal case being handled in this manner. Perhaps the case concerned Mr. Gopalan Nair. Perhaps the case centred on Gopalan Nair’s support for Chee Soon Juan and Chee Siok Chin. Perhaps it was because Gopalan had the audacity to insult / threaten a High Court Judge. Perhaps it was because of Gopalan’s open challenges to the Minister Mentor in his blog. Perhaps… Perhaps…..
Perhaps, it was defence counsel Chia Ti Lik appearing amidst all these. Was there more than meets the eye? You be the judge.
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