Court of Appeal rules against longer jail sentences for Kong Hee and City Harvest Church convicts

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The Court of Appeal has dismissed a bid by prosecutors to reinstate the original sentences City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee and his group of church leaders, which would have required the group to serve longer jail terms, if granted.

Kong Hee and group were originally sentenced to longer jail terms after they were found guilty of misappropriating about S$50 million of church funds, in October 2015. A three-judge panel at the High Court halved the group’s jail terms after it heard a five-day appeal in court last year.

A panel of five judges (including Judges of Appeal Andrew Phang and Judith Prakash, and Justices Belinda Ang, Quentin Loh and Chua Lee Ming) at the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court’s judgment in a packed courtroom this morning.

This means that Kong Hee will serve 3.5 years instead of the original 8-year term.

Serina Wee will serve 2.5 years instead of the original 5 years; Tan Ye Peng will serve 3 years and 2 months instead of the original 5.5 years; Chew Eng Han will serve 3 years and 4 months instead of the original 6 years; and John Lam will serve 1.5 years instead of the original 3 years.

The Church’s former finance manager, Sharon Tan, was released from jail last November after serving 7 months in jail. She was originally sentenced to 21 months in jail.

The panel of judges decided that Kong Hee and the other church leaders were not acting as “agents” as detailed in Section 409 of the Penal Code for criminal breach of trust.

In reading the decision, Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang said that Parliament should shape a remedy if there is any gap in the law. He added: “A hard case should not be allowed to make bad law.”