Friday, January 4, 2013

Singapore: 32 on death row can seek review of sentence

January 1, 2013: They were facing certain death by hanging, but may now get a lifeline as changes to the mandatory death penalty in Singapore kick in from Jan 1.

A key plank in the amendments to the Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code as well as the Misuse of Drugs Act will give these prisoners an opportunity to introduce new evidence to prove that they satisfy the new conditions for a life sentence instead of death.

In Singapore, a life sentence lasts for a prisoner's natural life, but he can apply for a review of his sentence after he has served 20 years in jail.

The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) told The Sunday Times that the changes would affect 32 inmates on death row, whose appeals had been dealt with previously.

The amended laws provide a chance for these prisoners to apply for their cases to be reviewed for re-sentencing by the Court of Appeal under the new regime.

Prior to the changes that were gazetted on December 28, the death penalty was mandatory for drug trafficking in certain amounts, and murder.

The Penal Code defines murder as culpable homicide carried out in one of four mental states.

The changed laws make death compulsory only if the accused intentionally killed the victim.

For the other three mental states, judges can now impose a life sentence, with the addition of caning.

For drug trafficking, the death penalty will no longer be mandatory under two specific conditions: First, if the trafficker only played the role of a courier and had not been involved in other drug-related activities, and second, if the trafficker cooperated in a substantive way.

Sources: The Straits Times, January 1, 2013