In a question raised to the Law Ministry, PAP MP Murali Pillai spoke up for the convicted City Harvest Church fraudsters and asked if pastor Kong Hee could serve out his prison sentence at home.
The question however also led to a self-contradicting response from Law Minister K Shanmugam, who is unclear whether the Prison Commissioner or himself is deciding:
“We looked at the principles that are applicable and we took advice from Attorney-General’s Chambers as to whether under law they would be entitled to community-based programmes, which will include home detention. It is something to be decided by the Commissioner of Prisons. He has got the discretion. But if the policy is applied…then they will not qualify.”
PAP MP Murali Pillai also asked what the Government planned to do about the people who were convicted and sentenced for criminal breach of trust under section 409 of the Penal Code – which warrants a heavier sentence up to a maximum of life imprisonment – that was used to prosecute the CHC leaders. The church leaders won an appeal to reduce the 409 charge to section 406, which is a lighter charge warranting only a maximum of 7 years’ imprisonment.
According to Law Minister K Shanmugam, at least 12 cases would qualify to reduce their charges from 409 to 406, but he would not allow a retrial:
“They were convicted, sentenced before the High Court reviewed and changed the interpretation of the law regarding section 409, and the Public Prosecutor does not intend to file any applications in respect of them… Of the 15 cases, three involve public servants, and the Court of Appeal’s interpretation does not affect them… The people convicted in these cases would have been convicted properly on the facts and on the law as had been applied by the courts.”