Private Prosecution under the Protection from Harassment Act
We defended the Respondent against a private prosecution brought by the Complainant under the Protection from Harassment Act (“POHA”).
2. Background of the Private Prosecution
After four days of trial, the Judge agreed with us that one allegation of harassment was not made out, and convicted the Respondent on the others. The charge was therefore amended and the Respondent fined $3,500.
Given that this was a private prosecution (akin to criminal proceedings) and not a civil suit, there is no rule that costs follow the event and no automatic entitlement that the Complainant be reimbursed his costs of bringing the prosecution. The Complainant then made an exceptional application under Section 355(1) of the Criminal Prosecution Code that the Respondent be ordered to pay costs to him.
Section 355(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code read:
Order for payment of costs by accused and order for payment of costs incurred by accused in his defence
355.—(1) The court before which a person is convicted of an offence may, in its discretion and if satisfied that the defence of the person was conducted in an extravagant and unnecessary manner, make an order for costs, of an amount fixed by the court, to be paid by the person to any other party to the proceedings in which the person is convicted of the offence.
[Act 19 of 2018 wef 31/10/2018]
3. Robust and thorough defence is an entitlement of any accused person
Such applications are rarely brought and even more rarely granted. The law requires that the defence of the accused be conducted in an extravagant and unnecessary manner before it will make such an order. As then-Chief Justice Yong Pung How said in Jasbir Kaur v Mukhtiar Singh  1 SLR(R) 616:-
… as a matter of policy, an accused person should not be made to bear the costs of prosecution simply because he chooses to claim trial even though the Prosecution’s case is strong. The law does not compel an accused person to plead guilty just because he has a weak case. Every accused person has a right to conduct his defence and is entitled to put the Prosecution to strict proof of his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
In like vein, we submitted that ä robust and thorough defence is an entitlement of any accused person.
The Judge agreed with our submissions and dismissed the Complainant’s application for costs.