High Court re-sentences a third murder offender to life imprisonment

Justice Choo Han Teck

Singapore’s High Court exercised its discretion today, sentencing Gopinathan Nair to life imprisonment with caning instead of the death penalty.

Gopinathan was initially convicted of murder under section 300(a) of the Penal Code in March 2012. The High Court then sentenced him to death under the old mandatory death penalty regime.

His appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal in September 2012. However, the Court did find that there were doubts as to whether he had an intent to kill, an element required under section 300(a). He was therefore found guilty of murder under section 300(c) of the Penal Code instead.

The Court also found that there was some element of provocation involved, although this was not enough for Gopinathan to qualify for the defence of provocation.

Under Singapore’s new death penalty laws, existing death row inmates, who have been convicted for murder under sections 300(b) to (d) of the Penal Code, will have an opportunity to have their sentence reviewed by the Court. Judges can either choose to uphold the death penalty, or substitute it with a sentence of life imprisonment with caning.

Gopitnathan’s case is the third case to have undergone such a review this year.

In his re-sentencing hearing this morning, Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Adrian Loo told the Court that the Prosecution did not object to defence counsel’s submission that a sentence of life imprisonment in this case was appropriate.

Loo however, urged the Court to impose the maximum of 24 strokes of the cane, highlighting that in the previous two cases of Fabian Adiu Edwin and Jabing Kho, the Court also decided to impose the maximum of 24 strokes on top of a sentence of life imprisonment. The DPP submitted that this case was not dissimilar to the other two cases in that the crime was also committed in the course of a robbery.

In response, defence counsel Mr Shashi Nathan, argued that the Court should not impose the maximum of 24 strokes of the cane. This is because the two previous cases were different from the current case as unlike them, Gopinathan had not planned the robbery which led to the victim’s death. Furthermore, there was also some element of provocation involved, which should count as a mitigating factor in his favour.

After hearing submissions from both sides, Justice Choo Han Teck sentenced Gopinathan to life imprisonment with 18 strokes of the cane.

Article: Damien Chng

Photo: Supreme Court Singapore

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