CALVIN CHENG: DR LEE IS UNREALISTIC - CONTEMPT LAW IS NECESSARY IN AGE OF SOCIAL MEDIA

<Facebook post by Calvin Cheng>

Dr. Lee Wei Ling says that contempt of court laws are unnecessary in Singapore, because we do not have a jury system.

She argues that our judges should be strong enough to not be affected by things said that might influence the decision of a case, unlike ordinary men and women who may make up a jury.

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This is a nice thought, but unrealistic.

No matter how trained or mentally-strong our judges are, they are human. The have friends and family. They have social circles. In high-profile cases, public sentiment can boil over. Without contempt of court laws, people, in the name of freedom of speech, can stir up intense feelings that in the court of public opinion, already pre-judge the accused. Even if he is in the end found innocent by the courts, he would already have been hung by the public.

It is naive to think that judges are completely immune from these pressures in the face of overwhelming public opinion. The pressure also needs not be directly exerted on judges by the public; such pressures can be indirect, through their families and friends, given that judges are not anonymous.

But we CANNOT mete out justice according to public opinion. This would be mob-rule.

We therefore need these laws to ensure that justice is not served according to public opinion.

This is especially so in the age of social media, where self-appointed vigilantes think they are policemen, prosecutors, judges and executioners. They now have to think twice before meting out mob-justice, whilst a case is ongoing.

In my opinion, the codification of contempt of court laws into statute cannot come any sooner.

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