by Augustine Low
Justice Chan Seng Onn’s acquittal of foreign domestic helper Parti Liyani has gripped the nation.
His detailed 104-page judgement was scathing of the Liew family and asked tough questions of investigators, prosecutors and the district judge.
Back in 2017, Justice Chan was also involved in another high profile case which rocked the nation. There was public outrage over the significantly reduced sentencing of six City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders on appeal.
But Justice Chan actually gave the dissenting opinion against reduction in jail sentences – he lost out in a two-to-one split decision.
CHC founder Kong Hee and the other five church leaders had appealed against their convictions and sentences after they were found guilty of misappropriating about $50 million of church funds.
The High Court panel of judges, comprising Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin, and Justices Woo Bih Li and Chan Seng Onn, more or less halved the jail terms of the leaders.
The appeal outcome was a split decision, with Justice Chan disagreeing with Judge Chao and Justice Woo.
Judge Chao and Justice Woo allowed the CHC leaders’ appeals against the conviction and found them guilty of a less serious charge of criminal breach of trust (CBT).
Justice Chan was the sole dissenting voice. In fact, Justice Chao elaborated that Justice Chan would have upheld the previous decision of the more severe sentences for the CHC leaders.
With the split decision, CHC founder Kong Hee’s sentence was reduced to three years and six months from eight years; Deputy Senior Pastor Tan Ye Peng to three years and two months from five years and six months; former board member John Lam to one year and six months from three years; former fund manager Chew Eng Han to three years and four months from six years; former finance manager Serina Wee to two years and six months from five years; and Wee’s successor, former finance manager Sharon Tan to seven months from 21 months.
The following year, in 2018, the Court of Appeal dismissed a bid by prosecutors to reinstate the original convictions for the CHC leaders.