In a written judgment made last Thursday (Dec 8), Singapore Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin referred to a particular case of a Bangladesh worker who was sentenced to 4 weeks’ jail for providing false information for injuries’ claims, and said that the District Court might have passed the wrong judgment.
On June 2016, a 29-year-old Bangladesh worker in Singapore, Md Rafiqul Islam Abdul Aziz, was charged with making false claims to the Manpower Ministry for a worksite injury he sustained when he fell off a ladder on May 2013. When he was convicted on June 30, he pleaded guilty to an amended charge.
However, the Bangladesh was wrongly impressed that he was charged for providing the wrong date of the accident, and that he maintained he did fell off the ladder except forgetting which exact date it was. The worker then made an appeal to retract his guilty plea after knowing he mistakenly pleaded guilty to the wrong charges a day after, but the Singapore district judge wanted to save time and dismissed his request claiming that the worker’s retraction is an “afterthought”.
The Bangladesh worker then served his 4 weeks’ sentence and was repatriated on July 22. Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin referred to this case and said that the Singapore Court could have made a mistake and criticised the District Judge for “saving time”:
“This was a case where the High Court should invoke its powers of revision to set aside guilty pleas. Such powers of revision are to be executed sparingly and “only to remedy a serious injustice. The critical questions are still whether (the accused) had understood the nature of the proceeded charge, whether he intended to plead guilty to the charge voluntarily, and whether the facts as he had advanced qualified his plea of guilt. While judicial time is precious … justice should not be compromised on that account. It is plausible that … a young Bangladeshi foreign worker unfamiliar with the Singapore legal system could have thought that he was being charged for giving the wrong date of the accident to the MOM ”
The mentioned case will be re-trialed and it is unknown if there is going to be any compensation for the worker if it is indeed a miscarriage of justice.