SINGAPORE – The prosecution will not take short-term views or allow a vocal minority to influence its actions, and instead, hold fast to the rule of law to do what is fair and right, Attorney-General Lucien Wong said at the opening of the legal year ceremony on Monday (Jan 8).
To maintain the trust of the public, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) is making the effort to articulate its rationale to help the public understand its charging and sentencing decisions, he said.
Prosecutors will also focus more on sentencing principles when arriving at sentencing positions submitted to the court.
In his speech, Mr Wong referred to the case of Ms Annie Ee Yu Lian, whose tragic death at the hands of two flatmates sparked intense public outrage, with an online petition calling for harsher sentences for the perpetrators.
He said the AGC cannot take for granted the public confidence that it commands as an institution. Misinformation can now be propagated and proliferated easily, shifting the contest from who makes the most sense to who has the loudest voice, he noted.
“We do not intend to join the shouting game,” he said. However, he added that the AGC can contribute to the public discourse by adopting a more open approach in its communication.
Taking the Annie Ee case, he noted that the AGC recently explained why it did not pursue murder charges against Pua Hak Chuan and Tan Hui Zhen, who were responsible for her death.
“We are making the effort to share our institutional philosophy with a wider audience not because we hope everyone will agree with every decision that we make. Decisions that are taken in the wider public interest are not necessarily synonymous with decisions that are popularly accepted.”
Mr Wong said the AGC wants the public to better understand the complex nature of the judgment call that prosecutors have to make and the broader policy imperatives behind the decisions.
He added: “I understand the public disquiet and frustration when egregious conduct is not, to the public’s mind, adequately punished.”
He said AGC will move towards placing more weight on sentencing principles, rather than precedents, when coming to a position on the sentence it seeks in court.
“The public should rest assured that we will continue to refine our approach towards criminal justice, with the view to ensuring that no misconduct goes unpunished, that all misconduct is justly punished, and that all persons are equally treated before the law.”