Case Update: Lee Siew Boon Winston v PP [2015] – criminal reference

Lee Siew Boon Winston v PP [2015] SGCA 67

Significance: conditions for leave to grant criminal reference to Court of Appeal.

In Singapore’s system of criminal justice, there is only one tier of appeal. Apart from the single tier of appeal, there is the criminal reference procedure, where one or more questions of law of public interest can be brought to the Court of Appeal, but only with leave: [4].

There are clear limitations on the bringing of a criminal reference, and those limitations have been, and will continue to be, observed scrupulously so that our system of a single tier of appeal does not in substance become a system with two tiers of appeal. (See Mohammad Faizal bin Sabtu and another matter v Public Prosecutor and another matter [2013] 2 SLR 141): [5].

The limitations are embodied in the four well-established conditions which must be satisfied before leave is granted to bring a criminal reference under s 397(1):

(a) first, the reference to the Court of Appeal can only be made in relation to a criminal matter decided by the High Court in exercise of its appellate or revisionary jurisdiction;

(b) second, the reference must relate to a question of law and that question of law must be a question of law of public interest;

(c) third, the question of law must have arisen from the case which was before the High Court; and

(d) fourth, the determination of that question of law by the High Court must have affected the outcome of the case.

(See Mohammad Faizal at [15], citing Bachoo Mohan Singh v Public Prosecutor and other applications [2010] 1 SLR 966 at [29]): [6].

Further, the court retains the discretion to refuse leave even where these conditions are satisfied, although strong and cogent grounds would have to be shown before the court exercises its discretion in this manner (Mah Kiat Seng v Public Prosecutor [2011] 3 SLR 859 at [13], cited with approval in James Raj s/o Arokiasamy v Public Prosecutor [2014] 3 SLR 750 at [15]): [7].

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