Following apex court's decision to uphold the lighter reduced sentence of former City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders, the Singapore government will take steps to amend the law on criminal breach of trust (CBT) accordingly.
In a ministerial statement delivered in parliament on Monday, Feb 5, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said that it is “common sense” that officers holding a higher position in an organisation should be liable for more severe punishments compared with an ordinary employee, if they were to abuse their powers and trust.
As such, "the government believes that the sentences are too low,” Mr Shanmugam added, reiterating the government's disagreement with the ruling. "If you are a senior officer, director in the organisation, you are in a position of greater trust, you have considerable authority to make decisions in relation to the organisation's assets. If you abuse that trust, you should be more culpable, and should be liable for more severe punishments."
In a Facebook post, Mr Shanmugam noted that, "as the law now stands, directors might face lesser penalties, compared with employees, others, who are more junior. This is wrong in principle."
Hence, the decision reached by the Court of Appeal (CA) "means there is now a lacuna in the law." The CA itself acknowledged this gap in the law, and had pointed out that the obligation of the Court is to set out the legal position correctly on what the law says. It is now up to the Parliament to "amend the law as it deems fit."
"That, we should do, and soon. We will ensure that legislation provides for higher penalties for directors and other senior officers who commit criminal breaches of trust," said Shanmugam.
A committee will be undertaking the review, and aims to complete its work this year. Recommendations will also be put up for public feedback.