AGC APPEAL COULD UP KONG HEE & CHC SENTENCES TO 20 YEARS

The Attorney-General's Chambers' decision to file a criminal reference to the Supreme Court could redefine all future sentences for church and charity leaders in Singapore and see Kong Hee and the other City Harvest Church leaders' sentences increased to up to 20 years, say law experts.

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Under current law, persons convicted under section 409, which is a legislation covering criminal breach of trust offences, must have done so in their capacity as a public servant, or a banker, a merchant, a factor, a broker, an attorney or an agent.

The AGC is directing the Court of Appeal to study whether church leaders like Kong Hee can be considered "agents" under the law. This form of appeal cannot be made frivolously, but can only be done for cases where there is public interest at stake.

According to the lawyers at IRB Law: "The various church leaders have been charged under section 406 of the Penal Code, which carries a penalty of a maximum of seven years imprisonment and a fine. Section 409 of the Penal Code carries a term of twenty years and a fine.

"Under section 409, the offender who commits a criminal breach of trust must have done so in his capacity as a public servant, or in the way of his business as a banker, a merchant, a factor, a broker, an attorney or an agent. The question is then whether the church leaders can be defined as an agent.

"It is in this context in which the actual significance of the criminal revision should be seen. Not only will it affect the sentences of the current leaders, from a maximum of seven years to a maximum of twenty years, but it will have an impact on how future cases of Criminal Breach of Trust would be framed. For example, if church leaders can also be considered as agents, this concept could potentially encompass other professions into the ambit of Section 409."

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