Thursday, March 15, 2012

Twists and Turns of Singapore Justice

 The farcial saga of Singapore death penalty legislation continues.

 Judgement reserved at Yong Vui Kong's hearing
secondchances, March 14, 2012

The Court of Appeal has reserved judgement in the case of Yong Vui Kong 
once again after he filed a criminal motion alleging unequal treatment.

Yong's lawyer Mr M Ravi, submitted in court this morning that his client 
has been a victim of unfair treatment, as Yong had been charged and 
convicted of a capital offence, while the prosecution withdrew charges 
against his boss Chia Choon Leng.

The prosecution had initially filed 26 charges against Chia. Five of the 26 
charges were directly related to Yong, stating that Chia had instigated 
Yong to carry drugs into Singapore. The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) 
later withdrew all 26 charges.

Chia recieved a discharge not amounting to an acquittal, and is currently 
held under the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act. It is likely that 
he may be released in one to two years' time. Yong, on the other hand, 
faces the gallows.

Mr Ravi argued that this differentiated treatment was in breach of Article 
12 of the Constitution, which guarantees equality under the law, pointing 
out that a less culpable offender has been sentenced to death while the 
mastermind has not been prosecuted at all.

Mr Ravi also submitted that the AGC had exercised their discretion based on 
irrelevant considerations while ignoring relevant considerations in their 
decision to proceed with a capital charge against Yong. He stated that the 
prosecution had not given enough weight to the fact that Yong was young and 
in a vulnerable position when the crime was committed, while giving undue 
weight to the fact that Yong did not want to identify Chia in court, 
although his refusal was due to fear for the safety of his family.

He thus asked that Yong's conviction be quashed and his case be sent back 
to the AGC for review in light of the new circumstances.

Mr Ravi also pointed out that in the exercise of the law, one should also 
keep in mind the intention of Singapore's policy. He reminded the court 
that when the Misuse of Drugs Act was first amended to include the 
mandatory death penalty in 1975, its aim was to target the masterminds of 
drug syndicates, and not mere couriers. The then Law Minister, Mr Chua Sian 
Chin, highlighted this in his speech to Parliament:

It (the Mandatory Death Sentence) is not intended to sentence petty 
morphine and heroin peddlers to death.

However, Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong and Justices of Appeal Andrew Phang 
and V K Rajah asked if Chia could be charged under Singapore law for his 
alleged abetting and instigation, pointing to the fact that the act was 
committed in Johor Bahru, Malaysia.

After hearing from both sides, the court reserved judgement, asking that 
both the applicant and prosecution file additional written submissions on 
whether Chia's alleged offences can or should be tried under Singapore law. 
The submissions will be filed on Monday.

After the court delivers its verdict on this new appeal, Yong will have 
another three months to file a new petition for clemency to the President.

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