EXECUTIVE SUMMARY OF MINISTERIAL STATEMENTS BY THE:
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER AND MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS: “ENHANCING OUR DRUG CONTROL FRAMEWORK AND REVIEW OF THE DEATH PENALTY”
MINISTER FOR LAW: “CHANGES TO THE APPLICATIONS OF THE MANDATORY DEATH PENALTY TO HOMICIDE OFFENCES”
1. The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs spoke on enhancing Singapore’s drug control framework and review of the death penalty in Parliament on 9 July 2012. The following are the key points that DPM made:
a. We have long taken strict and tough measures to curb the menace of illegal drugs. Drug abuse affects not only the addicts, but also their families and loved ones. The human cost to individuals and society is very high. Those who trade in illegal drugs are still attracted by the huge financial gains to be made, and deterring them requires the strictest enforcement coupled with the severest of penalties.
b. Drugs are harmful and we must make every effort to deter drug taking. To curb demand, we will introduce more intervention measures for young abusers, and compulsory aftercare and a supervision regime comprising electronic monitoring with curfew hours, counselling and casework for inmates released from long-term imprisonment to help them stay away from drugs. To restrict supply, we will put more resources into border checks and enforcement, invest more in technology and intelligence, increase penalties for repeat traffickers, and introduce new offences for those who sell to vulnerable groups and organise drug parties.
c. Drug situation remains a serious threat. We therefore need to maintain severe penalties for drug trafficking, including the mandatory death penalty for drug traffickers, in most circumstances. However, when two specific, tightly-defined conditions are both met, we propose to make the death penalty for trafficking no longer mandatory, but to be imposed at the discretion of the courts. First, the trafficker must have only played the role of courier, and must not have been involved in any other activity related to the supply or distribution of drugs. Second, discretion will only apply if having satisfied this first requirement, either the trafficker has cooperated with the Central Narcotics Bureau in a substantive way, or he has a mental disability which substantially impairs his appreciation of the gravity of the act.
d. We will retain the strong deterrent posture of our capital punishment regime. The proposed changes will sharpen our tools and introduce more calibration into the legal framework against drug trafficking, and put our system on a stronger footing for the future.
2. The Minister for Law spoke on the changes to the application of the mandatory death penalty to homicide offences. The following are the key points that Minister had made:
a. The Government’s strong stance on crime has helped Singapore keep our crime rates one of the lowest in the world. This must be preserved to ensure the safety and security of Singapore.
b. The mandatory death penalty will continue to apply to the most serious form of murder, intentional killing. Offenders who intend the death of their victims ought to be punished with the most severe penalty, and the law ought to provide the most powerful deterrent against such offences.
c. Other categories of murder could be committed with different degrees of intention and under a variety of situations that may not deserve the ultimate punishment. In such cases, the courts will be given the discretion to order either life imprisonment or the death penalty.
3. These are the key points relating to both sets of changes:
a. Once legislation has been put in place, all accused persons who meet the requirements can elect to be considered for resentencing under the new law. This will include accused persons in on-going cases, as well as convicted persons who have already exhausted their appeals and are currently awaiting execution. Draft legislation implementing the changes outlined today will be introduced later this year.
b. In making the changes today, the Government seeks to achieve and balance two broad objectives:
i. The first is to continue taking a strong stance on crime. Singapore’s homicide rate is one of the lowest in the world, and we believe that the deterrent effect of the death penalty has played an important part in this.
ii. The second is the refinement of our approach towards sentencing offenders. Our cardinal objectives remain the same. Crime must be deterred and society must be protected against criminals. Criminals should receive their just desserts. But justice can be tempered with mercy and where appropriate, offenders should be given a second chance.
c. How these objectives are achieved and balanced depend on the values and expectations of society, as it evolves and matures. We believe the proposed changes strike the right balance for Singapore today. They will seek to ensure that our criminal justice system continues to provide the framework for a safe and secure Singapore, while meeting the need for fairness and justice in each case.
4. For the full Ministerial Statements, please refer to the attached documents.