A High Court judge explained why he dismissed attempts by the late Donminique Lee’s family to sue the SAF for the botched military exercise that led to his untimely death. The judge said that the law was clear that all soldiers were granted legal immunity and could not be sued for any mishaps they cause other soldiers in the course of their duties. This however does not give them carte blanche to act without sufficient regard for safety.
The judge issued his full grounds and it was finally made public:
“Whilst the tragedy behind this case, and the pain and anguish it has engendered, should be recognised, we should not forget that this case also engages a matter of great importance — the ability of the SAF and its members to safeguard our nation and her security without being burdened by the yoke of tortious civil liability.
The immunity accorded by (Section 14 of the GPA) does not mean that the SAF and its officers have carte blanche to act without sufficient regard to the safety of the young men and women whose lives are entrusted to them. Indeed, to the contrary, the fact that such immunity exists in and of itself imposes an even heavier moral burden on the SAF and its officers to exercise utmost care in looking after their young charges.”
Irving Choh, the lawyer for Dominique Lee’s family argued that the SAF officers in charge of the exercise did not possess legal immunity because they breached the safety regulations on the amount of smoke grenades to be used in training. Judicial Commissioner Kannan overruled this argument noting that whether a mishap was the result of negligence did not matter under the GPA.
Lee’s family was similarly stopped from suing the Attorney-General on grounds that Dominique Lee’s contract with the SAF was breached due to negligence. JC Kannan explained that National Service was not a contractual agreement but legislative compulsion thus making the argument invalid.