48-year-old Mah Kiat Seng, previously sued the Singapore Police for wrongful arrest and was awarded $20,000 in damages by the High Court.
However, now he had to pay the defendants $28,000 in legal costs.
Mah succeeded in his claim back in January that police officer Mohamed Rosli Mohamed had unlawfully arrested him, but failed in his second claim that another police officer Lawrence Tan Thiam Chin had assaulted him while in custody.
On 3 March, Mah was awarded $19,320 of the legal costs, while the Attorney-General, representing the Singapore Police Force, was awarded $48,000 in legal costs.
Justice Philip Jeyaretnam said that he is of the view that Mah is entitled to the costs of his successful claim against officer Rosli, but has to pay the costs of his unsuccessful claim against the other officer Tan.
Snippet of the judgment
Lastly, I would observe that it may appear incongruent that Mah is awarded $19, 320 in costs for the issues comprising 70% of the matter while the AG is awarded $48,000 for the issues comprising the balance 30%.
However, this apparent incongruity is explained and justified by two points.
First, compensation for the time of litigants in person will ordinarily be less than the amount that the court awards to litigants for the cost of legal representation, because of the principle that litigants must not profit from costs of legal proceedings.
As an aside, litigants who engage lawyers will typically spend more on that representation than they are awarded by the court if successful against the other party.
Secondly, in this particular case I have referred to the Magistrate’s Court scale as a reference point for Mah’s costs because this case could have been brought there, even though I have not limited the amount awarded to that scale.
I have done this because of the principle of proportionality.
By contrast, I have assessed the AG’s costs against the Cost Guidelines (which apply to High Court matters) because the AG did not choose the court, and a successful defendant to a matter brought in a higher court than the one appropriate to the claim is entitled to costs assessed on the scale or guidelines of that higher court.
Source: SG Courts