(EDIT 28/08/2014.) Click the image to read the report.
Asia One reports,
City Harvest trial: No hoarding of court passes, says church
City Harvest Church yesterday rubbished any suggestion that it has been trying to keep the public from viewing trial proceedings by taking up most of the court passes.
Instead, around 16 students from its School of Theology (SOT) have been queueing up early in the morning for a pass each, as a favour to church members.
Responding to a query from The Straits Times, a church spokesman said: “We have a number of members who are parents who want to listen to proceedings… (However), they have to get their kids ready and send them off to school, for instance, and cannot be physically available to collect the tickets issued.
“As such, about 16 SOT students have kindly volunteered, for the duration of August and September, to help these parents collect the tickets at 5am…
“As these SOT students stay in the same dormitory, they have made arrangements to come together by a hired bus, as public transport is not available at that hour and taxis are too costly.
“The rest of the tickets are available to others in the queue.”
Since church founder Kong Hee took the stand last Monday, the courtroom has been relatively empty, compared with the full houses when the trial started in May last year. This was despite the 50 passes reserved for the public being taken up each morning.
But yesterday, the courtroom was close to completely full after the public realised that they could enter without a pass after 10am, if free seats were available.
Source: By Ian Poh, City Harvest trial: No hoarding of court passes, says church, Asia One, http://news.asiaone.com/news/crime/city-harvest-trial-no-hoarding-court-passes-says-church#sthash.cVx7Ejx9.dpuf, (Straits Times) First Published 23/08/2014, Updated 23/08/2014. (Accessed 26/08/2014.)
The Real Singapore wrote,
CHC MEMBERS QUEUE FOR TICKETS TO COURTROOM BUT DON’T TURN UP SO PUBLIC CAN’T ENTER
As the City Harvest Church trial continued its court hearings over the past two weeks with the co-accused church members including Church leader Kong Hee taking the stand, it has been very difficult for interested members of the public to attend the court hearings beacuse they are “full”.
The courts have a system in place where interested parties must collect a ticket to enter the courtroom if they wish to sit inside during the hearing. However, despite all the tickets being taken, these past few weeks have seen only half full court rooms and members of the public without tickets have been rejected.
The tickets, which are transferrable, are handed out at the start of the day. For high profile cases such as the CHC one, those who wish to sit inside the courtroom must have a ticket to enter.
Here is what the state courts website says about the tickets:
Public access to Courtroom is based on first-come-first-seated basis. The Courtroom will open 30 minutes before the hearing starts. A queue pole will be set up outside the Courtroom for crowd management, when necessary.
For cases of high public interest which are likely to attract a larger than usual turnout, there will be a limit to the number of seats allocated in the Courtroom (e.g. to family members of person charged in court, prosecutors, defence counsel, court interpreters, etc.) where the case is heard. Under such circumstances, queue poles will be set up outside the Court building to facilitate orderliness due to the large crowd. The State Courts will issue a special pass (transferrable) to members of the public who wish to observe the proceedings of the case.
The special passes will be issued outside the Court building on each day of the trial, before the hearing starts. When all the special passes (for the morning or afternoon) are issued, members of the public will be notified that the Courtroom is full. There will be no entry into the Court building until further notice. This is to prevent exceeding the occupancy load of the building and to ensure that fire safety regulations are complied with.
It has come to light that there are a large number of city harvest church members who actually go down to the courts in the morning as early as 5am in order to take the tickets:
A CHC member tipped TRS off explaining that some church members have actually been organising for buses to ferry members to the courtroom and after taking the tickets, they give them to their church leaders.
As a result, the public are prevented from being able to enter the courtroom to hear the real truth first hand.
This explained why despite all the tickets being taken every day, the courtrooms have been remaining about half empty.
Since today, the state courts have changed the rules and started allowing members of the public into the courtroom even if they don’t have tickets as long as there are still empty seats.
Source: CHC MEMBERS QUEUE FOR TICKETS TO COURTROOM BUT DON’T TURN UP SO PUBLIC CAN’T ENTER, http://therealsingapore.com/content/chc-members-queue-tickets-courtroom-dont-turn-so-public-cant-enter, Published 22/08/2014 6:50pm. (Accessed 26/08/2014.)