Tag Archives: death penalty

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

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

Photo: supremecourt.gov.sg

 

 

Letters from Death Row – A film project inspired by Yong Vui Kong

Letters from Death Row
Concept art from the pre-production stages of the film.

“The death penalty subject was not something I went looking for, in fact I didn’t know much about the death penalty or [mandatory death penalty]. Then it found me.”
– Kit Lim, Malaysian filmmaker

It’s 2013, and Yong Vui Kong is still on death row in Changi Prison. The campaign to save his life is ongoing, and small changes to the law are giving us a little more hope. In the meantime, his story continues to reach people, challenging them to reflect upon their own views on the death penalty and its place in society. Malaysian filmmaker Kit Lim is just one such person.

“I came across Yong Vui Kong’s case somewhere in 2011. I was working a nine-to-five job then to finance my Master’s studies when I came home one day and read one of his letters online,” Lim writes in an email to Second Chances. “It was the seventh letter where he made amends with his father but by then he was on death row. That one really pulled at my heartstrings and all these images came floating into my mind.”

Inspired by Vui Kong’s “dignity and remorse”, Lim decided to make a film about the death penalty. Entitled ‘Letters from Death Row‘, the film’s goal is to encourage society to re-examine this archaic form of punishment.

“I hope to produce a cinematic experience with a captivating storyline, compelling characters and gripping emotions that will not lull audience into passivity but encourage discussions on the mandatory death penalty and pave the way for change.”

But it’s not easy to make a film, and Lim has had trouble securing sufficient funding. Undeterred, he is planning to launch an online crowd-funding campaign towards the end of March.

Updates on the film can be found on its Facebook page.