The Federal Court in its Grounds of Judgment dated 28 November 2012 in Lee Yoke Yam v Chin Keat Seng has confirmed that statements made in police reports are protected by absolute privilege and hence cannot form the basis of any defamation claim. The Federal Court had also referred to the position in India and England where absolute privilege did apply in such a situation.
The Federal Court agreed that similar to the situation where absolute privilege protects a statement made in judicial proceedings, for example evidence given at trial, a police report being a statement leading to judicial proceedings would also be protected. This is because a police report which from its very nature, is a statement which the complainant is prepared, if so called upon, to substantiate on oath and for that reason must be protected by absolute privilege. Consequently no action for defamation should lie against the maker of a police report.
The overriding public interest is that a member of the public should be encouraged to make police report with regard to any crime that comes to his or her notice. Such a report is important to set the criminal investigation in motion. With such report, the alleged crime may be investigated and the perpetrator be brought to justice. It is without doubt that public interest should override the countervailing consideration that this may sometime lead to an abuse by a malicious informant. In any event, if a false report is lodged by a complainant, he is liable to be prosecuted for making false report under s.177, s.182 or s.203 of the Penal Code.That would be a sufficient safeguard against any person from making a false report.