In 2012, Singapore amended its Misuse of Drugs to give courts hearing capital drug trafficking cases the discretion to replace the default death penalty with life imprisonment and caning, provided that the accused person can show that he was merely a drug courier and the prosecution certifies that he had substantively assisted the authorities in disrupting drug trafficking activities. The Singapore High Court and Court of Appeal have since made important pronouncements on the 2012 amendments, but several challenges remain: first, whether the privilege against self-incrimination has been further eroded; secondly, whether an accused person can invoke the statutory relief of being a courier only at sentencing; thirdly, whether it is appropriate to leave the certification decision solely to the prosecution; and finally, whether guidelines as to when the death sentence is appropriate should have been prescribed. These challenges ought to be given serious legislative or judicial consideration as the criminal justice system in Singapore continues to evolve in response to changing public perceptions of due process and crime control. The first three challenges, in particular, may have important ramifications for potentially innocent accused persons as it is submitted that the law as it stands may incentivise some of them to plead guilty from the outset to maximise their chances of avoiding the death penalty. As there are still a number of jurisdictions that retain the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking offences, this article may also be of comparative interest, especially since there appears to be a dearth of literature on the discretionary death penalty for drug offences.
Misuse of Drugs Act, Discretionary Death Penalty, Presumption of Innocence, Privilege against Self-Incrimination, Newton Hearing, Prosecutorial Discretion, Singapore
Asian Studies | Law and Society | State and Local Government Law
Law, Society and Governance
International Journal of Evidence and Proof
The Discretionary Death Penalty for Drug Couriers in Singapore: Four Challenges. (2016). International Journal of Evidence and Proof. 20, (1), 49-71. Research Collection School Of Law.
Available at: http://ink.library.smu.edu.sg/sol_research/1534
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