Excessive Court docket dismisses 22 demise row inmates’ software for pre-action disclosures towards A-G, SPS over forwarding of personal correspondence with legal professionals, households to AGC

The pre-action disclosures sought by 22 death row inmates towards the Legal professional-Basic (AG) and the Singapore Jail Service (SPS) are neither needed nor related for 9 of the candidates, as it’s not disputed that none of their non-public correspondence with their legal professionals and households was sought by the AG or forwarded by the SPS.

In the midst of the listening to, it was revealed that the Legal professional-Basic’s Chambers (AGC) had sought entry to the non-public correspondence of 13 of the 22 demise row inmates and had obtained the letters from the SPS.

In dismissing the inmates’ software for pre-action discovery and pre-action interrogatories towards the AG, Justice See Kee Oon mentioned in a written judgement on Tuesday (16 Mar) that there isn’t a specific provision for pre-action disclosures towards the Authorities in statutory regulation.

“Within the absence of any specific provision on the contrary, the impact of Part 54 of the IA (Interpretation Act) is that Part 34 of the GPA (Authorities Proceedings Act) defines and limits the scope of disclosures accessible towards the Authorities,” mentioned the choose.

The Court docket’s powers to order both discovery or depart to serve interrogatories, he added, are “expressly premised upon” the above provision within the GPA.

Justice See additionally reasoned that there’s a threat of “doubtlessly frivolous functions for discovery even earlier than a prima facie case has been put forth” earlier than the proceedings.

He famous that the candidates, on this case, are now not searching for pre-action disclosures in respect of judicial evaluation.

Permitting their software for pre-action disclosures towards the AG and SPS, mentioned Justice See, might open the “floodgates” to extra events searching for pre-action disclosures towards the Authorities, attributable to such an motion probably being simpler than the standard discovery processes related to judicial evaluation.

Within the current case, the AG has already disclosed all of the candidates’ correspondence that was obtained by the AGC.

This renders pre-action discovery “pointless”, because the candidates would then have already got adequate information to start proceedings, mentioned Justice See.

On prime of that, the AGC had disclosed that it had requested and did obtain the correspondence of the primary and twelfth candidates.

“As well as, it has additionally been categorically affirmed that the AG didn’t “use such correspondence, or in any other case acquire any benefit, in any authorized proceedings towards the Plaintiffs”.

Thus, the AG’s “voluntary disclosures” based mostly on the above had already furnished the candidates with “adequate paperwork and knowledge to mount their contemplated claims as they could deem match, whether or not for declaratory reduction or premised on tort,” mentioned the choose.

Addressing the candidates’ tortious floor of misfeasance in public workplace on the a part of the SPS and the AGC, Justice See mentioned that there are three markers that point out if a tort of misfeasance in public workplace had taken place, specifically:

  • If the act is completed with malicious intent or with the data that finishing up the act is extremely vires — going past the scope or authority — of the general public physique’s powers;
  • If injury to the plaintiffs on account of the act is foreseeable; and
  • If the act really causes injury to the plaintiffs.

Each the SPS and AGC, he noticed, on this case, are “ready to know the extent of injury” that would probably be suffered by the candidates on account of the SPS forwarding the inmates’ correspondence to the AGC.

Even the AG, Justice See famous, didn’t dispute how there generally is a reason for motion for misfeasance in public workplace.

Nevertheless, the choose reasoned that it’s debatable whether or not the candidates had proven that an actionable obligation of care exists in relation to their contemplated claims towards the AG, its brokers or officers.

Referencing English case regulation, Justice See famous that the tort of misfeasance in public workplace was “not actionable with out proof of fabric injury, however the truth that a number of of the jail officers have been discovered to have acted in unhealthy religion”.

Even whether it is accepted that the candidates didn’t have any proof of malice or data that the act was extremely vires on the a part of the AG or its officers, it could not stop the candidates from bringing a declare towards the AG or asking for the invention of related info after the proceedings start, he added.

Justice See reiterated that info obtained in pre-action discovery is to allow candidates to formulate their pleadings, to not permit them to find out their likelihood of success throughout the proceedings.

Referring to statutory obligation, the choose reasoned that it’s “not in query” as as to if there was a breach of the related provisions within the Prisons Act and the Laws.

Nevertheless, a non-public proper to convey an motion for situations the place an officer of a public physique had been in breach of their statutory obligation is a query that has “but to be decided by the courts”, he careworn.

Justice See mentioned that in his view, it’s neither needed nor helpful for the candidates to determine “the identities of concerned public officers or their purported intentions of their confidential communications” when substantiating their declare that “a non-public regulation reason for motion” exists of their case towards the SPS and AGC.

“In any occasion, (the candidates) have already been furnished with all of the related paperwork and correspondence which had been transmitted to the AGC,” he added.

Whereas the Court docket of Attraction held in TV Media Pte Ltd v De Cruz Andrea Heidi and one other attraction {that a} authorities physique might probably be held liable in negligence for breach of its statutory duties, Justice See reasoned that the load of the widespread regulation authorities “suggests {that a} obligation owed to the general public at giant doesn’t prolong to a non-public regulation obligation of care owed to particular person members of the general public”.

Justice See additionally dominated that whereas he accepts the candidates’ place that the issues at hand contain questions as to the right administration of justice, due course of and wider public curiosity, the “correct discussion board” for the disciplinary proceedings alluded to by the candidates is the Regulation Society’s Disciplinary Tribunal (DT).

It’s because the candidates’ respective trials and appeals “have been heard and concluded earlier than the suitable fora”, and never in a case the place the matter had but to be litigated, he added.

By the DT, the inmates “might doubtlessly have a reason for motion towards the Authorities via a civil motion filed towards the AG”, mentioned Justice See.

The demise sentence will resume at any time for the candidates on this case, because the matter has concluded.

The inmates’ lawyer, M Ravi mentioned in a Fb submit in the present day that his purchasers have been ordered to pay S$10 in prices.

Background on the applying

The authorized problem mounted by the 22 inmates involved their confidential letters, which have been allegedly being forwarded by Changi Jail to prosecutors within the AGC in breach of jail laws.

The inmates then utilized to the Excessive Court docket for a pre-action discovery of related paperwork, specifically:

  • All letters from the A-G requesting the Changi Jail Superintendent to provide copies of the inmates’ correspondence;
  • All letters from the Changi Jail Superintendent to the A-G with enclosed copies of the inmates’ correspondence; and
  • The inmates’ correspondence forwarded by the Changi Jail Superintendent to the A-G, “along with any enclosures to that correspondence”.

The inmates additionally utilized for depart to serve pre-action interrogatories towards the AG and the Changi Jail Superintendent.

Mr Ravi in a Fb submit on 16 January alleged that the Deputy AG Hri Kumar Nair “via his affidavit has disclosed that 13 out of the 22 inmates had their correspondence forwarded to AG’s workplace”.

“This was finished with out authorisation and in breach of the Jail Laws and customary regulation safety,” he added.

Mr Ravi mentioned that he had requested the AG and the Jail Superintendent for the names of the authorized officers or public servants “who got here into possession of the topic paperwork and in the event that they requested these paperwork”, amongst different associated questions.

The AG was represented by Senior Counsel Tan Chee Meng and a group of legal professionals from Wong Partnership.

The Changi Jail Superintendent was represented by Senior Counsel Abraham Vergis and his group.

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