IN THE COURT OF
APPEAL OF THE REPUBLIC OF SINGAPORE CIVIL APPEAL NO. 116 OF 1997
IN THE MATTER OF SUIT NO. 82 OF 1997
1. TANG LIANG HONG
(NRIC NO. S1096110F)
2. TEO SIEW HAR
(NRIC NO. S0531156Z)
LEE YOCK SUAN
(NRIC NO. S040696/B)
SUPPLEMENTAL STATEMENT OF CASE FOR THE APPELLANT
1. Further ground of appeal
1.1 At the hearing of the appeal the Appellant will seek leave to rely on a further ground for appealing the assessment of damages in this suit. The ground is that the damages were assessed by the learned Judge on a wholly false premise, namely that it was the Appellant who "falsely and maliciously caused the contents of the [police] reports to be re-published in [various] newspapers" (see paragraph 4 of the Statement of Claim).
1.2 The Appellant will further contend that the reason why the Judge assessed damages under a fundamental misapprehension of fact was that the Respondent and/or the Respondents in the related Appeals by themselves and/or through their Counsel deliberately withheld the true facts from the Judge or alternatively failed to correct what was a manifest error of fact in the judgment.
1.3 This further ground of appeal came to light very recently in the course of libel actions brought against Mr Ben Jeyaretnam by the Senior Minister and by the Prime Minister, who are both Respondents in the related appeals. In Further and Better Particulars of the Statement of Claim in Suit No. 224 of 1997, served on 21.7.97, the Senior Minister revealed for the first time that copies of the police reports had been released to the press by his press secretary on 2.1.97. In paragraph 5 of an affidavit sworn by the Prime Minister in August 1997 in Suit No. 225 of 1997, he deposed that he had authorised the Senior Minister to release the police reports to the press. These facts were previously unknown to the Appellant.
2. Respondent's case as to the republication of the police report
2.1 The Respondent firstly complained in this action of the publication by the Plaintiff to the police of his report. This publication was to a very limited number of persons (and would in any event plainly have been protected by qualified privilege).
2.2 But the Respondent also complained of the republication of the contents of the report in six identified newspapers, whose combined circulation was enormous. The reports devoted huge prominence to the report. The Appellant denied responsibility for this republication. The damage to the Respondent's reputation and the injury to his feelings (if any) plainly stemmed from this republication.
2.3 The Respondent verified his statement in oral evidence at the hearing of the assessment ) verbatim notes of evidence p204 ). Counsel for the Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made submissions to like effect (paragraph 2 of Annex C to Submissions and verbatim notes p505) and those submissions were adopted by Counsel for this Respondent.
2.4 The whole thrust of the Respondent's case was therefore that it was the Appellant who procured the republication in the media of the allegations in the police report. By necessary implication it was his case that neither he nor to his knowledge any of his co-Plaintiffs had had any hand in the republication of the police report.
3. The position of the co-Plaintiffs in the other suits
3.1 Although not consolidated, all the suits were heard together. The other Plaintiffs or their legal advisers were present in court throughout and in particular were present when the Senior Minister and the Prime Minister gave evidence.
3.2 It emerged clearly from the evidence of the Senior Minister (verbatim notes at p154) that the decision to "expose" the Appellant was one taken by the Cabinet on 24 December 1996 and that the allegations of chauvinism etc. against the Appellant were co-ordinated. See the verbatim notes of evidence in Suit No. 225 of 1997 at p207-8.
3.3 The Court will be invited to infer that it was part of the Plaintiffs' objective to launch as many libel actions against the Appellant as possible and, by using separate solicitors, to inflate the exposure of the Appellant in costs. Prior to the release of the police report to the media by the Senior Minister and the Prime Minister, 8 of the 11 Plaintiffs had causes of action for libel against the Appellant. But the Respondent in this appeal and in the appeals in Suit Nos. 70 and 76 did not have any such cause of action. By releasing the police report to the media, the existence of a viable cause of action was achieved for these three Respondents.
3.4 Neither the Senior Minister nor the Prime Minister nor any of the other Plaintiffs (including the present Respondent) in his oral or written evidence disclosed the fact that it was the Senior Minister and the Prime Minister who procured the publication of the police report in the media. Counsel for the Senior Minister told the Judge that the Appellant's non-admission of liability for the republication had been struck off (verbatim notes at p70). All the Plaintiffs knew full well that it was a highly material fact in the assessment of damages that the Respondent's case as to the Appellant's responsibility for republication of the police report was wholly unfounded.
4. The Judge's fundamental misapprehension
4.1 In paragraph 46 of his judgment at p27 Chao Hick Tin J said: "The police report was released to the media through the Secretary General of the WP at a rally [on the evening of 1 January 1997] ....".
4.2 That statement was wholly unsupported by the evidence and it was contrary to what actually happened.
4.3 The Judge was led into error by the pleadings and/or the evidence of the various Plaintiffs (including the present Respondent) and/or by the submissions of their Counsel. The Appellant will contend that the decision to suppress and withhold from the Judge the circumstances under which the police report came to be published in the media must have been deliberate.
4.4 The Judge's misapprehension was fundamental because the extent of publication is always a vital factor in assessing damages (see the judgment at p48) and the Judge was influenced by what he perceived to be the sensationalising of his allegations by the Appellant.
5. Contentions of the Appellant
5.1 It is submitted that, in order to avoid a miscarriage of justice, an appellate court cannot allow to stand an award of damages which is based on a false premise which had a vital effect on quantum (and which would have provided the Appellant with a defence of volenti).
5.2 A fortiori such an award cannot be permitted to stand when the Judge's misapprehension as to the facts has been induced by the party in whose favour the award was made:
Praed v Graham (1889) 24 QBD 53 at 55;
Meek v Fleming (1961) 2 QB 366 at 378-380.
5.3 Moreover Counsel were under a duty (particularly in the absence of the Appellant) to correct the Judge's misapprehension and inform him of the true position. When called on by Counsel for Mr Jeyaretnam in Suit No. 225 of 1997 to explain this apparent breach of duty, no explanation was forthcoming.
5.4 On the further ground set out in this Supplemental Statement of Case, the award of $300,000 cannot stand.
Dated this day of September, 1997.