Court of Appeal dismisses criminal motion to set aside death sentence for drug mule
The Court of Appeal has dismissed a criminal motion by the lawyers of a convicted drug trafficker to set aside his death sentence and reopen his case in the High Court for a re-trial, given proposed changes to the mandatory death penalty for drug traffickers.
Cheong Chun Yin, a Malaysian, was convicted in 2010 of trafficking 2.7 kilograms of heroin into Singapore.
Cheong had arrived from Myanmar and delivered a black trolley bag containing the drugs.
According to Cheong's lawyers, Mr M Ravi and Mr Louis Joseph, Cheong believed he was carrying gold bars, and did not know the bag contained drugs.
They added that Cheong was only a mule acting for two other masterminds who have yet to be nabbed, and that he had tried to cooperate with the authorities.
Under the proposed amendments, the court will have the discretion to sentence a drug trafficker to life imprisonment and caning, as opposed to the current mandatory death penalty, if the accused is found to have met two specific and tightly-controlled requirements.
Firstly, the trafficker must have only played the role of courier, and had no role in any other activity related to the supply or distribution of drugs.
Secondly, discretion will only apply if, having satisfied the first requirement, either the trafficker has cooperated with the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) in a substantive way, or has a mental disability which substantially impairs his understanding of the Misuse of Drugs Act.
Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean had earlier said that all executions that are due since the review of the death penalty started in July 2011 have been deferred.
In Cheong's case, Deputy Public Prosecutor Aedit Abdullah said there was no basis for it to be re-opened as the amendments have not been enacted yet.
On that point, Justice Chao Hick Tin said the court must make decisions on the present case, based on current laws.
He added that there will be provisions under the new law, once it's enacted in Parliament, for Cheong's case to be heard if he fulfils its specific conditions.
Earlier, Cheong's lawyers also asked that his conviction be regarded as unsafe.
Mr Ravi referred to a two-page judgment by the trial judge, saying it did not provide adequate reasons for the decision.
"We are dealing with lives here...they can't be condemned in a two-page judgment. It's insufficient," he told the court.
Mr Ravi added that the CNB had also not made adequate efforts to track down the two masterminds even though they could have provided crucial evidence relating to Cheong's innocence.
He told the Court of Three Judges he hired a private investigator who managed to track down one of the alleged masterminds and said the case should be sent back to the High Court for a re-look of the new evidence.
On these points, Justice Chao noted that while the judgment was short, it did not mean it was inadequate.
He also said the Court of Three Judge had examined the evidence very carefully and had not found any miscarriage of justice.
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