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    Aug 05, 2016

    Woman says she was under pressure to plead guilty

    A 43-YEAR-OLD woman tried yesterday to retract her guilty plea for ill-treating three pet dogs, arguing she had pleaded that way because her former lawyer had put her under "fear and extreme pressure".

    While the Chief Justice did not allow her application, he adjourned the case when he discovered she had been told what she was pleading guilty to, only on the day itself.

    Chng Leng Khim said she agreed to the guilty plea because her lawyer had told her she could be remanded at a mental institution if she claimed trial instead.

    She was also worried about the impact of a trial on her daughter, who is on probation for kicking a policewoman.

    She sobbed as she read out her handwritten notes, asking to be "given a fair trial to uncover the truth in the interest of justice".

    CJ Sundaresh Menon was initially unmoved, pointing out Chng had understood the consequences. "The law is such that you can't be flippant about it."

    He noted that at a pre-trial conference on Feb 5, five days before she made her plea, her lawyer had said she would likely accept the prosecution's plea bargain offer.

    But the CJ later found out, when he questioned the prosecutor responding to Chng's appeal, that she had been given the statement of facts - a document setting out details of her offences to which she had to admit without reservation - only on Feb 10, the very day she was pleading guilty.

    CJ Menon adjourned the case for the prosecution to submit a written explanation for what had transpired between Feb 5 and 10.

    He wanted details, such as the negotiations under which the plea was taken, among others.

    He told Chng to make a statutory declaration and state, on oath, how she had been pressured.

    Chng had moved out of her Paya Lebar Crescent landed home in June 2013, along with her three children, after she stopped paying rent of $1,500 a month.

    She left behind a bull mastiff and a chow chow, which were found by the landlord two days later. Both were ill and thin, infested with ticks and surrounded by their urine and faeces.

    An emaciated poodle found near the house was traced to her.

    The chow chow and poodle were rehomed but the bull mastiff had to be euthanised.

    Chng was arrested on June 30 last year.

    On Feb 10, she pleaded guilty to two charges of animal cruelty, two counts of keeping a dog without a licence and a charge of failing to comply with an AVA order.

    Two other charges - for animal cruelty and for keeping a dog without a licence - were taken into consideration.

    At a sentencing hearing on Feb 19, Chng said she wanted to retract her guilty plea. Her lawyer also applied to discharge himself.

    Sentencing was adjourned to give another lawyer time to prepare her mitigation plea.

    But the second lawyer also discharged himself on Feb 23, when she was sentenced to 10 days' jail and a fine of $3,100.