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The Pride: About that story of the Singapore woman who says she was sexually assaulted by ex-boyfriend…

Written by Marilyn Peh
The Pride

It was a post that seemed to fall right in line with the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements that have inspired so many women to go public with their experiences as victims of sexual assault.

In a detailed account on her public blog that was also shared on her Facebook page, a young woman revealed last week that three years ago, she had been raped by an ex-boyfriend from polytechnic in his own home.

Like numerous other #MeToo and #TimesUp posts that surfaced before hers, it did not take long before her story was roundly shared and went viral on social media.

This time, unlike others, however, it became a post that drew more brickbats than shouts of support.

Netizens zeroed in on what they saw as inconsistencies in her account, and opined that it was unlikely to be a case of rape.

 

In the post, she said that they had been “fooling around” but she had not intended to have sex with her ex-boyfriend. It was not made clear if the pair discussed whether she consented to sex before the act took place.

Many observers saw her willingness to “fool around” with him as an indication that she was willing to go further, but the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE)’s Nabilah Husna takes a different view.

She defines sexual consent as a person expressing agreement to engage in a sex act, which must be given freely and voluntarily, without threat, intimidation, pressure or guilt-tripping.

The communications and community engagement manager at AWARE points out: “Just because no one said ‘no’ does not mean there is consent. Moreover, consent to some sexual acts does not equate to consent to all of them. A person might also consent to sex at one point, but change their mind later.

“Being coerced into a sexual activity one is not ready for, or having your boundaries crossed during a sexual encounter, is part of how sexual violence operates, in reality.”

The blog post has since been removed, perhaps in response to the backlash, and the young woman’s profile is also no longer searchable on Facebook.

While the veracity of the young woman’s story may never be known now, false accusations of sexual assault are rare, according to Nabilah.

“Reporting or speaking out about sexual harassment can carry economic, social and psychological costs, without necessarily resulting in perpetrator accountability, because societal understanding, support and procedures are lacking.”

In the face of such stigma, the #MeToo movement has been key to giving survivors the courage and platform to share their experiences.

Case in point: AWARE’s Sexual Assault Care Centre (SACC) received 79 per cent more calls at the height of the movement in the last quarter of 2017, as compared to the quarter before.

And it’s a good thing that more women are speaking up in a bid to tackle the stigma that has long bred a culture of silence among victims.

However, doing so in the public domain can bring along intense scrutiny — just ask the young woman who found herself at the centre of an online firestorm this week in sharing her #MeToo story.

In her post, she also named her alleged abuser, something lawyer Nicolas Tang would caution victims against doing, unless the facts are completely accurate.

The legal counsel and managing director of Farallon Law Corporation tells The Pride: “Accusing anyone of a crime is potentially defamatory. The plaintiff would have a case for defamation if the facts alleged were not true, and his reputation was diminished in the eyes of others, as a result of him being described as having committed a criminal offence.

“It is important not to exaggerate facts or post things which you cannot substantiate with either independent eyewitnesses or extrinsic evidence, like photographs or WhatsApp messages, for example.”

And even in situations where the victim is speaking the truth, naming an abuser in public gives the latter the option to pursue charges for defamation.

Tang cautions: “Even if the facts are true, there is nothing to stop the abusers from engaging lawyers to sue the victims of sexual abuse, just to try to clear their name.”

So, instead of instinctively going on social media to name and shame an abuser on platforms where a poorly-told account may easily be misconstrued as dishonesty and spread very quickly, victims can spare themselves further distress by leaving the case in the hands of the law.

Tang advises: “The preferred approach is to file a police report, and let the police investigate the case.”

And as bystanders, whether we believe a victim’s account or not, it’s best not to be too quick to judge or make assumptions. Or worse, react so antagonistically that victims are intimidated into staying silent instead of coming forward to seek justice.

As Nabilah explains: “It already takes great courage for survivors to even speak out – so it is up to all of us to actively create a more supportive environment for them, rather than responding with hostility and disbelief, or pressuring them to justify their experiences.”

The Pride Interview: Don’t end up in jail for what you post on Facebook

Facebook Defamation has its consequences

Mar 01, 2018
Written by Brenda Neo

With stricter laws being considered to curb fake news and in light of the recent case where administrators of a Facebook page had to apologise for allowing the publication of a post found to be in contempt of court, how would you know if what you put up on social media will get you into trouble?

You don’t want to end up on the wrong side of the law for what you upload, post or comment online, especially if it was intended purely for fun and may appear seemingly harmless.

Also, if your post or comment defames – or damages the reputation of – someone, there would be repercussions: The person who has been defamed might take legal action against you, which could end up with you having to pay a hefty compensation to the person you have wronged.

But all these can be avoided with wise online habits.

The Pride speaks to Nicolas Tang, counsel and managing director of Farallon Law Corporation – who has handled many defamation lawsuits involving WhatsApp, social media, and radio – to seek his advice for various situations that could possibly land you in trouble.

 

If you are the administrator of a Facebook group

Image Source: The Pride

Let’s say you love talking about current affairs, so much so that you’ve set up a group on Facebook for like-minded people to share and discuss the latest news. One night, a member of your group uploads a post and you wake up the next morning with hundreds of Facebook notifications on your phone.

The entire Internet is talking about it, which is something to celebrate, except there’s one problem: The post is defamatory.

Would you be in trouble for the post? If the person who made the original post gets sued for defamation, could you also be sued?

Tang says it depends on the facts. He explains that it boils down to your awareness of its presence.

“If you were not aware of the post, then you would not be liable for the contents of the post,” the 41-year-old points out.

He added that the moment you are made aware of the offending post, you need to take it down. Otherwise, you would be liable for failing to remove the post, although Tang clarifies that your liability would not be as much as that of the person who made the post.

 

The Everyday Facebook User

Image Source: The Pride

You meet your friend over coffee and brunch. The conversation is heartwarming and packed with anecdotes, and you realise just how much you’ve enjoyed her friendship. When it’s time to go, you can’t leave each other without taking a selfie, of course. You take a snap and you post it on Facebook, sharing how much she means to you and promising a next outing. The usual likes and comments pour in, most of which are #friendshipgoals or asking where you had your coffee.

Out of nowhere, someone leaves an unkind and defamatory comment on the post, accusing her of cheating on her partner and calling her all sorts of degrading names. Your friend is deeply hurt and feels wronged.

How responsible are you for the offending comment?

Not very much, according to Tang.

“Provided the photo you posted in no way invited the defamatory comment; if your photo could be construed as encouraging or inciting such comments, then you would be liable,” he cautioned.

For example, if you had posted a photo of the two of you in a suggestive pose, or insinuated in your caption that she is in another relationship. His advice is that it would be good to delete the offending comment, even though you are not responsible for its contents, so that you reduce any any risk of you being slapped with a lawsuit or a criminal charge.

As a friend, it would also be kind to remove the malicious comments, especially if they are untrue.

 

The Indignant Facebook User

Image Source: The Pride

You are unhappy about the verdict of a criminal case where the accused was acquitted. Incensed by what you perceive as a miscarriage of justice, you take to Facebook where you rant about how you think the justice system in Singapore is flawed, even going to the extent of accusing the judge of taking bribes and letting the accused go scot-free. Your claims are, of course, untrue, but you think you are just sharing how you feel within the safety of your Facebook friends.

In this case, Tang says, your post will be in contempt of court because of your allegation of corruption on the part of the judge.

There is a proper channel to make your views known, such as making a police report, or consulting a lawyer, instead of making your views public, he advised.

After all, free speech is governed by defamation laws and everyone is responsible for their online behaviour. It also pays to be careful when airing your views online.

 

The ‘Supportive’ Friend

Image Source: The Pride

Seeing your friend’s impassioned and angry post about the punishment that was not dished out to the accused, you share his Facebook post without verifying the facts of the case.

If your friend is charged with contempt of court, will you be in trouble too?

You would be, as sharing is akin to republication. But only to a certain degree, explains Tang, and the Attorney General’s Chambers will decide if they want to prosecute you for this.

It will be wise to be sure of what you share, and not to share blindly, as not everything you see online is true. A picture may paint a thousand words, but it does not always paint the truth.

 

The Irate Singaporean

Image Source: The Pride

You are driving to work one morning when somebody suddenly cuts into your lane, causing you to brake suddenly. The sudden movement causes your cup to jerk and coffee spills on your lap. You curse as it scalds your skin, and roll down the window to yell an expletive at the other driver. He alights, having heard your insult, and starts spoiling for a fight. However, you stay put in your car and take a picture of him before going on your way to work, ignoring his taunts.

Your mind keeps replaying the incident and you are still upset when you arrive at work. You decide to upload his photo on Facebook and post a rant, calling him all sorts of derogatory names and inviting your Facebook friends to criticise and harass him.

Would you be liable for defamation?

Yes, says Tang, as your description of him may be damaging and untrue. Besides, Tang offers, if you are aggrieved, there are other ways you can seek redress. You can lodge a police report and have them handle the matter instead of going online to defame the person.

In conclusion, bear in mind that whatever you post online can be used against you, especially when what goes online stays online. It is best to think it through carefully before you make your posts so that you do not land yourself in trouble for the things you say or share on Facebook.

 


For more information on Facebook and Social Media Defamation in Singapore, please visit our pages:

2018 Legal Seminar for Startups and SMEs

To Register, please visit: https://www.eventbrite.sg/e/legal-seminar-for-startups-and-smes-tickets-41597003758

Ask a Lawyer: What’s the biggest employment agreement mistake?

employment agreement mistake

Employment agreements are arguably the most important element in a professional relationship – not only do they lay down key expectations for both parties involved but they also prevent unethical behaviour on either side – if they’re done right.

Unfortunately, crafting a fail-safe employment agreement is a difficult task and employers are often caught out by weak contracts.

Nicolas Tang, managing director of the Farallon Law Corporation, spoke to HRD Asia on how HR can ensure their employment agreements stick.

What’s the biggest mistake you see from employers, and how can they avoid it in future?

“The most common mistake is not having wording which prevents the employee from stealing or copying trade secrets, confidential information and intellectual property,” Tang says, adding that the risks are obvious.

“The employees soon figure out how the business is run,” Tang tells HRD. “Then they copy the whole concept, take all the material, customer lists and supplier lists and establish a competing business.”

It’s a situation that has hit a number of major firms in Singapore, including HTC, BlueScope Steel, and Tempcool. While many companies have launched successful legal claims, Tang says employers have far more weight behind them if they’ve included a confidentiality clause in their employment agreement.

“It is much easier to win a lawsuit for a breach of confidentiality when you have a confidentiality agreement in place,” he says.

His golden advice for employers is to check employment agreements carefully and use different agreements for different levels of employees.

 

Crowdfunding in Singapore

With the increase in crowdfunding, are there any loopholes in the current charity laws which could lead to abuse?

The Charities Act requires fund raisers to provide accurate information including the name of the charity or the person to which the donation will be given, the purpose for which the donation will be used, and whether any commercial fund raiser has engaged in soliciting funds.

Any information relating to donors must be kept confidential and all information collected must comply with the Personal Data Protection Act of Singapore.

All donations collected by the commercial fund raiser shall be paid in gross directly to the charity or the person and any payment to such fund raiser shall be paid separately by the charity or the person to the fund raiser.

All donations must be used in accordance with the specified intention.

Finally, accounting records must be kept for a period of 5 years.

These are not the only rules which apply to crowdfunding in Singapore.

For a clearer picture, you should engage professional legal advisers to examine and advise you on the specific circumstances of your case.

Facebook and Social Media Defamation in Singapore

Facebook Defamation Singapore

We have recently been engaged by defendants in relation to social media defamation lawsuits commenced in Singapore.

When posting on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Youtube or on your personal blog, you need to be careful about what you post, especially if your posts are accessible to the general public and have not been made private or restricted to the people that “follow” or “friend” your account.

The Singapore courts will award damages to those who have been defamed by others on the internet, and it is not a defence to say that you did not use your real name or you did not mean to publish the defamatory words.

 

Here are 6 things you should know about social media defamation:

 

  • The legal principles relating to Facebook and social media defamation are similar to the rules that relate to normal defamation.

 

  • Defamation is actionable even if you posted a photo, or commented on a photo or post.

 

  • When it comes to internet defamation, the defamation may spread outside Singapore if the readers of the defamatory words are located outside Singapore.

 

  • The time and extent of the publication would affect the amount of damages which the claimant can claim from you.

 

  • Sharing a defamatory post (for example, by “retweeting” a tweet), can also render you liable for defamation.

 

  • It is a good defence to a claim for social media defamation if what you said was true, was fair comment on a matter of public interest or was made as a matter of qualified privilege.

 

 

What if I’m accused of social media defamation?

 

  • Stay calm. Winning a defamation case is not easy, especially if not many people saw the defamatory words, and if the defendant engages a good defamation lawyer.

 

  • You should consider deleting the offending post as soon as possible, to minimise your damages.

 

  • Avoid direct communication with the claimant or her lawyer, as you may unwisely implicate yourself or aggravate the amount of damages you need to pay to the claimant.

 

  • If you feel you have a valid defence, then you should consider gathering and consolidating evidence to defend your case, even before you contact a lawyer. Do screen capture, save and time stamp all evidence.

 

  • Useful evidence would include the date and time of the post, whether the post has been set to public, limited or private, the size and number of followers to the post or the claimant’s feed, whether the post was shared by anyone, and whether the claimant or any other person had responded to the defamatory words, and how they responded.

 

  • Consider whether the defamatory words were published only in Singapore or had spread overseas, and if so which jurisdictions the words were published in.

 

  • You should not apologise or admit liability before considering all your legal options, as the apology may allow the claimant to claim unspecified damages against you.

 

For more information on Defamation, please visit our sister article Defamation in Singapore

Best Top Criminal Lawyer in Singapore

We have frequently been approached by clients, friends and relatives to advise them who is the best criminal lawyer in Singapore.

Well, many of them are no longer practicing law.

 

K Shanmugam

 

Subhas Anandan

 

R Palakrishnan SC

 

David Marshall

 

Our Criminal Lawyer Expertise