Saturday, August 15, 2009

Everitt Road spat: Fine set aside

Both parties in dispute claim victory of sorts after court ruling

A NEIGHBOURHOOD feud that has been festering in Everitt Road for 16 years had a High Court conclusion yesterday that could finally draw a line under their increasingly bitter dispute.

The conflict, which has also involved several other people, dozens of legal complaints and several court appearances, has blighted life in the Joo Chiat street since 1993.

Even the outcome of yesterday's court case was disputed, with two women claiming to have won a victory of sorts.

Madam Tan Bee Hua had been fined $500 in April for hurling vulgarities at Dr Chan Soo Yin, but had the penalty set aside yesterday on condition that she keeps a clean record for the next 12months.

Madam Tan, 51, was given a conditional discharge - a rare move by the High Court - after arguing that she was provoked and the offence was minor.

Her lawyer Ram Goswami also told the appeal hearing before Justice Choo Han Teck that she was unlikely to repeat the offence.

Madam Tan had been convicted and fined by a magistrate's court in April for hurling vulgarities at Dr Chan in Everitt Road at about 11pm in August 2003.

At the time, she was living in nearby Teng Tong Road and had cycled to Dr Chan's house.

Dr Chan had cross-appealed and argued in person yesterday for a heavier deterrent fine against Madam Tan, but left empty-handed after Justice Choo threw out her suit.

Yet Dr Chan, who is an educator, said she was happy with the appeal outcome, noting that the complaints against Madam Tan and the others who hired lawyers would have cost them legal fees several times the fine payable.

Madam Tan, a businesswoman, said she fought the case all the way to the High Court 'to protect her dignity' and received support from friends for her legal fees. 'I feel very happy and relaxed today,' said the single mother of three, who added that the ongoing feud had led to bouts of depression and many sleepless nights.

Yesterday's case marked the end of a slew of disputes that started in 1993 and eventually led the Chans to lodge about 25 complaints against various neighbours, including the Loh, Chua and Gan families.

The Chan family consists of retiree Chan Cheng Khoon, 74; his wife Chua Gek Eng, 71; and their daughter, educator Chan Soo Yin, 47.

Seven families have been engaged in a long-running conflict with the Chans which has drawn widespread media attention over the years. Three of the families have since moved out.

The dispute began over a parking space but soon escalated into a tit-for-tat turf war involving chains, video cameras and allegations of abuse on both sides.

The spats are believed to have been one factor in the establishment of the neighbourhood courts scheme set up last year to sort out rows, with Justices of the Peace presiding.

Dr Chan said she filed 25 magistrate's complaints against her neighbours between 2005 and 2006, but only one was successful. That was the subject of yesterday's appeal.

She filed six complaints against Madam Tan and others against the Gans, the Lohs and the Chuas. All were either resolved though mediation or settled.

Dr Chan and her father were also the subject of complaints and were hauled to court a number of times between 2004 and 2006 for insulting and harassing their neighbours.

Mr Chan was fined three times and Dr Chan once - racking up total fines of $10,000.

However. she was far from dispirited after yesterday's setback: 'The experience has been a wonderful learning journey. I can now actually give advice on what to do in neighbourhood quarrels.'

Madam Tan, meanwhile, has moved. She left the area in May 2006 to get 'peace of mind' and now lives in Balestier Road.

Source: Straits Times, 15 Aug 2009

No comments:

Post a Comment