Reviewer: Yeo Han Hwee
During his time, Glenn Knight handled some of the biggest and most high profile crime cases in our judicial history. This book (basically his memoirs) will disappoint some people.
Allow me to explain. Don’t read this book and expect sensationalistic, nail biting, lurid details about crimes (although there are some). Instead, what you get is a cool analysis of the legal profession in the 1970s and 1980s. He also guides you through his thought process when and how he handled his cases – what happened, and how he interpreted the law.
For example, in the chapter “Chopper Attack”, “… a wife had killed her husband by swinging the equivalent of a weapon at him. The pathologist had not been convinced that she had actually intended to kill him so I reduced the charge to one of causing grevious hurt and she got off with a lighter sentence… I think this was the key to my success as a prosecutor – that I was allowed to exercise my own discretion and won most of my cases because I never dogmatically pursued cases I was unsure of. This helped me secure more convictions.”
Knight even details the historical impact of landmark cases. In the chapter “Uncertainty over Borrowed Drug Laws”, he writes that Singapore had borrowed a part of our anti drug legislation from Canada originally. “But in doing so we had forgotten to render the act of possession equal to the act of trafficking… he (David Marshall) quite rightly pointed out that possession, in itself, was not sufficient to prove the act of selling or transporting the drug… We therefore had to prove the element of marketing the drugs and not mere transportation. It was also the first time we had gone beyond saying that possession of the drugs amounted to the trafficking of the drugs.”
He also writes candidly about the “Big Hitters” in the early days of the legal circle – people such as TT Rajah, Tan Boon Teik, Wee Chong Jin, FA Chua, Choor Singh (“the hanging judge”), JBJ and David Marshall. He also adds in a lot of personal anecdotes – he never knew his father, and he didn’t call his mother “mum” until 2 years after he met her. He was a singer and guitarist in two bands in university. And he details his good natured rivalry with Marshall (who once congratulated him and mailed him a $1/- note after Knight defeated him in a case).
He leaves the best for last. The final third of the book includes the infamous Adrian Lim case (easily the most grisly murder in Singapore history), prosecuting JBJ, and the Pan-El debacle (a big financial scandal in the mid 1980s). At the peak of his career, Knight was riding high as a Public Prosecutor and Singapore’s first Director of Commercial Affairs. He then entered what was probably the most trying and difficult phase of his life. He was found guilty of attempted cheating and giving false information to get a government car loan. In 1998, he was charged again – this time with another three counts of misappropriating CAD funds.
Glenn was fined, jailed, his Public Administration Medal was revoked and he was disbarred. He suffered a heart attack, went from job to job etc. Was Glenn too smart and arrogant for his own good? Did he make enemies who were in positions of power? Read to find out.
Thankfully, this story does have a happy ending. He writes about how his activities at his church got him through the tough times. Finally in 2007, he was reinstated to the bar, and was allowed to practise again. He is only one of six lawyers ever to be reinstated to the Singapore bar.
In all, he comes across as an intelligent man who did what he thought was fair and right. By far, the most interesting part of the book is his “fall from grace”. “The Prosecutor” would make an interesting counterpoint to Subhas Anandan’s book.