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Court Reviews Sentence for Murder Offender Under New Laws

Justice Chan Seng Onn

The High Court exercised its new discretionary powers for the first time in a murder case today. It sentenced Fabian Adiu Edwin to life imprisonment in place of the death penalty. Fabian had been convicted of murder under section 300(c) of the Penal Code in September 2011.

The decision follows recent amendments to Singapore’s death penalty regime. Under the new laws, the High Court can now choose between a sentence of life imprisonment with caning or the death penalty, in cases where a person is convicted under sections 300(b) to (d) of the Penal Code.

Fabian’s case is one such example. He was found guilty of culpable homicide amounting to murder under section 300(c) by the High Court in September 2011. His execution however, was stayed because of a government-led review of the laws relating to death penalty. The proposed changes were passed by parliament in 2012 and took effect in January 2013.

Under the new law, inmates who were earlier convicted under sections 300(b) to (d) of the Penal Code will have a chance to have their sentences reviewed by the High Court. Judges will have discretion to replace what was previously a mandatory sentence of death, with life imprisonment and caning.

In Court this morning, the Prosecution submitted that the appropriate test which the judge should use to determine if a sentence of death is warranted, is to look at whether Fabian’s crime has outraged the feelings of the community. Under this test, the Court should look at three broad factors – the seriousness of the offence, how widespread the criminal activity has become, and the need for deterrence.

The Prosecution highlighted that Fabian and his co-accused had armed themselves and the harm caused was severe because it resulted in the death of the deceased. Furthermore, in the last 10 years, there were 25 cases of robbery-cum murder, of which 4 occurred in 2008. As such, the Prosecution submitted that a deterrent sentence of death was warranted.

Defense Counsel, Anand Nalachandran however, argued that a death sentence should only be used as a last resort. He pointed out that all homicide offences are, by their nature, very serious and urged the Court to look at the circumstances surrounding the case.

Mr Nalachandran told the court that Fabian had been lured to Singapore to work at the age of 17 and that expert witnesses had testified that he had a sub-normal IQ. Further more, Fabian was only 18 years and 10 months old when he committed the offence – just above the legal limit for the death sentence to be imposed. Mr Nalachandran also said the death of the deceased was not an intended consequence.

In response to the Prosecution’s call for a deterrent sentence, Mr Nalachandran pointed out that since 2008, the number of robbery-cum-murder cases has also been on the decline, with only 1 case in 2009, 2 cases in 2010, 1 in 2011, 2 in 2012 and 1 thus far in 2013. Above all, life imprisonment, while less harsh than the death penalty, is still a very harsh punishment and an appropriate deterrent.

In delivering the reasons for his decision , Justice Chan Seng Onn took into account the fact that Fabian had committed a series of robberies and on one of these instances had murdered the victim. However, he agreed with the Defence that Fabian’s young age and his sub-normal intellect should be regarded as mitigating factors in his favour and he therefore handed down a sentence of life imprisonment with 24 strokes of the cane.

Our report on the changes to the application of the death penalty for murder and drugs can be found here

Article: Damien Chng and Priscilla Chia




SWGDP’s statement on the 10th World Day Against the Death Penalty

10th World Day Against the Death Penalty

It has been a decade since the World Day Against the Death Penalty was first commemorated. In the past decade, the world has seen a progressive decrease in the use of the death penalty.

According to the latest statistics provided by World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, 97 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, 8 countries have abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes and 36 countries have abolished the death penalty in practice. In total, 141 countries are abolitionist in law or in practice.

Singapore, a country that has been practicing the use of both the death penalty and the mandatory death penalty, will be seeing slight amendments made in the use of the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking and homicide.

As we applaud the global changes that have been observed over the past decade and acknowledge the small steps taken by the Singapore Government, we recognise that our work in advocating for the abolition of the death penalty continues. We cannot overlook the fact that the death penalty still exists in our own backyard, guarded defensively by authorities who claim that it is a necessary evil that works as a deterrent towards heinous crimes and drug trafficking.

As the newly formed Singapore Working Group on Death Penalty#, we  would like to emphasize our position against the use of  death penalty and the mandatory death penalty by stating that:


  1. The death penalty and mandatory death penalty is an irreversible, ultimate form of cruel, inhuman and degrading form of punishment and it fundamentally goes against Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that states “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”;

  2. The abolition of the death penalty will contribute to enhancement of human dignity and progressive development of human rights;

  3. The death penalty is not a deterrent for crimes as there are many factors including ignorance, mental conditions and social factors that nullifies any deterrence effect.

Until the death penalty is fully abolished in Singapore, we will continue our call for a paradigm shift in our judicial system and principles – a shift away from the emphasis on retributive justice and move towards the restorative aspects of justice.  With this in view, we make the following recommendations to the Singapore Government:


  1. To continue the current stay on executions and establish an official moratorium to create the time and space for society to explore alternative sentencing options and to work ultimately towards the abolition of the death penalty;

  2. To make available statistics and other factual information on the use of the death penalty, which is already an accepted recommendation in the Universal Periodic Review by the Singapore Government#

  3. Ratify the International Covenant on the Civil and Political Rights [ICCPR] and the Second Optional Protocol of the ICCPR, aimed at the abolition of the death penalty;

  4. With due regard to articles 10 and 15 of the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), recognise that no persons with disabilities – including persons with mental or intellectual disabilities – should be subjected to the death penalty.

We also take this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment towards the abolition of the death penalty in Singapore, and express our support and solidarity with friends and fellow abolitionists locally, regionally and internationally.


Singapore Working Group on Death Penalty

13 October 2012

About the Singapore Working Group on the Death Penalty (SWGDP)

The Singapore Working Group on the Death Penalty (SWGDP) is a collaboration between Think Centre, Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign and We Believe in Second Chances. We have come together as concerned Singaporeans to advocate for changes that we strongly believe will lead to a better Singapore where every individual enjoys the full “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights” as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of  Human Rights (UDHR).

We are motivated by Article 3 of the UDHR that proclaims “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”. Every nation including Singapore and every individual must “promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures” ensure “effective recognition and observance among the people”.

Under this collaboration, we work together to enhance our collective capacity to conduct research, projects and events. Through our outreach programmes, we hope to raise awareness and trigger much-needed public debate on issues surrounding the  death penalty in Singapore.