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    Apr 06, 2016

    Not 'desirable' for Court of Appeal decisions to face 'constant challenge'

    SINGAPORE'S highest court yesterday expressed concern that the number of applications asking it to revisit "final" decisions has "increased dramatically in recent years".

    The Court of Appeal suggested that Parliament consider enacting provisions that would weed out applications without merit at an early stage.

    These remarks were made in the apex court's written judgment in dismissing the bid of Jabing Kho to reopen his conviction and quash his death sentence for murder.

    Of the 24 criminal motions filed to the Court of Appeal last year, 11 were applications to reopen criminal cases that had already exhausted the appeal process, the last of which was Kho's.

    They also include a drug trafficker who tried to rely on a statement by an accomplice to show that he was being framed.

    Of the 11 motions, eight were summarily dismissed for being wholly without merit, one was withdrawn and one has yet to be heard.

    "We do not think that this state of affairs is desirable for two reasons," said Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin, who delivered the judgment.

    Finality is an integral part of justice as it would be impossible for the legal system to function if decisions were "subject to constant and unceasing challenge", he noted.

    Also, unmeritorious applications to revisit concluded cases take up scarce judicial resources, which could go towards hearing cases that were being appealed for the first time.

    The court said its power to reopen a concluded criminal appeal to prevent a miscarriage of justice is to be exercised sparingly and only in exceptional circumstances.

    Applicants seeking such a review must produce new material that can show, almost conclusively, that there has been a miscarriage of justice.

    They also have to show that the court's decision is "demonstrably wrong" or that it has been tainted by fraud or a breach of justice.