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'Recalcitrant' Hour Glass co-founder Jannie Chan starts 2-week jail term for contempt

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Prominent businesswoman Jannie Chan Siew Lee started serving a two-week jail term for contempt of court on Monday (Sept 9) after losing her appeal against an order for the sentence, imposed in 2017, to take effect.

PROMINENT businesswoman Jannie Chan Siew Lee started serving a two-week jail term for contempt of court on Monday (Sept 9) after losing her appeal against an order for the sentence, imposed in 2017, to take effect.

During the two-hour hearing, the 74-year-old, who argued her own case in a quavering voice, spoke of grievances against her former husband Henry Tay, with whom she co-founded luxury watch retailer The Hour Glass.

She also repeatedly stressed that she was a divorced woman and was suffering from depression.

Dr Tay started contempt proceedings against her in 2017 after she flouted a court order that restrained her from defaming and harassing him by sending out e-mails.

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The recipients included Cabinet ministers, employees and her grandchildren's school teachers.

On Monday, the Court of Appeal dismissed her arguments, saying that two weeks' jail was "rather lenient", given her "total and continued disregard for and defiance of the court's order".

Delivering the court's decision, Judge of Appeal Tay Yong Kwang said despite the fact that Chan was depressed and distressed by her problems, she knew that she was in contempt by sending out the e-mails.

The court said Chan was not a helpless woman who did not know how to seek medical help or legal advice, yet she took the "non-legal" route to resolve her perceived problems, claiming that the e-mails were "cries for help" to the recipients.

"It has been emphasised to her over and over again that this 'non-legal' route was in fact an unlawful one and that she should stop her destructive actions," said the court, which also comprised Justices Belinda Ang and Quentin Loh.

Despite this, Chan continued to breach the order with "seeming impunity".

"Her recalcitrant conduct was persistent and pernicious despite the many opportunities given to her to simply stop."

After her appeal was dismissed, Chan blamed her ex-husband for using "legal technicalities" against her.

"My daughter is in jail. I'm happy to go to jail," she said, referring to the 22-month prison term imposed on Audrey Tay May Li, 45, for drug charges in October last year.

Chan's request to defer her sentence to settle business matters was rejected. The court noted that she has been granted many adjournments in a case that has been outstanding for more than a year.

Dr Tay and Chan, who have three children, ended their 41-year marriage in 2010.

He sued her in 2014 for sending out 1,265 e-mails which he said harassed him or were defamatory.

The lawsuit was settled in February 2016, and Chan was ordered to stop harassing and defaming Dr Tay. But she persisted in flouting the order.

In February 2017, Dr Tay took out contempt proceedings against her.

It was the third time he had taken such legal action. He dropped the case the first time after she apologised, and she was fined $30,000 the second time.

In August 2017, the High Court sentenced Chan to two weeks' jail for contempt.

But the judge gave her a last chance by suspending the sentence for a year, on condition that she stop flouting the order and attend monthly psychiatric sessions.

Chan breached the first condition almost immediately by making comments on Facebook. She also failed to furnish proof of several sessions.

Her non-compliance resulted in the High Court lifting the suspension in April last year.

Chan then appealed, but the apex court upheld the High Court's decision.

THE STRAITS TIMES