Published: 05 November 2021
1. Nagaenthran was sentenced to death by the High Court in 2010 after being convicted for trafficking diamorphine. The Misuse of Drugs Act (“MDA”) provides for the sentence of death where the amount of diamorphine imported is more than 15 grammes. Nagaenthran was caught trafficking 42.72 grammes of diamorphine, equivalent to about 3,560 straws of heroin. It would be sufficient to feed the addiction of about 510 abusers for a week.
2. Nagaenthran appealed to the Court of Appeal against his conviction and sentence, and his appeal was dismissed on 27 July 2011.
3. On 24 February 2015, Nagaenthran filed an application to set aside the sentence of death imposed on him, and to substitute it with a sentence of life imprisonment. One of the issues considered, during this re-sentencing application, was whether Nagaenthran’s mental responsibility for his actions was substantially impaired, at the time he had committed the offence. The High Court considered the facts, expert evidence from four different psychiatric/psychological experts, and further submissions by the Prosecution and the Defence. The High Court held that Nagaenthran knew what he was doing, and upheld the sentence of death. The High Court had assessed the evidence of the psychiatrists, including the evidence of a psychiatrist called by the Defence, on behalf of Nagaenthran, who agreed in Court, that Nagaenthran was not intellectually disabled.
4. The High Court found that Nagaenthran was able to plan and organise on simpler terms, and “was relatively adept at living independently”. The Court also noted that his actions in respect of the drug importation offence revealed that he was “capable of manipulation and evasion” – for instance, when stopped at the checkpoint, he attempted to forestall a search by telling the Central Narcotics Bureau officers that he was “working in security”, thus appealing to the social perception of the trustworthiness of security officers. He was also noted to be “continuously altering his account of his education qualifications, ostensibly to reflect lower educational qualifications each time he was interviewed”.
5. The Court of Appeal affirmed the High Court’s decision and said that it was satisfied that Nagaenthran clearly understood the nature of his acts. The Court of Appeal noted that Nagaenthran knew that it was unlawful for him to be transporting drugs, and hence attempted to conceal the bundle by strapping it to his left thigh and then wearing a large pair of trousers over it. He undertook the criminal endeavour in order to pay off his debts, and hoped to receive a further sum of money upon successful delivery. The Court of Appeal found that Nagaenthran’s actions “evidenced a deliberate, purposeful and calculated decision”, “in the hope that the endeavour would pay off, despite the obvious risks”. This was “the working of a criminal mind, weighing the risks and countervailing benefits associated with the criminal conduct in question”. Nagaenthran considered the risks, balanced it against the reward he had hoped he would get, and decided to take the risk.
6. Nagaenthran was accorded full due process under the law, and was represented by legal counsel throughout the process. His Petition to the President for Clemency was unsuccessful.
7. Singapore adopts a zero-tolerance stance against illicit drugs. The penalties, including the death penalty, for the illegal trafficking, importation or exportation of drugs are made clear at our borders, to warn traffickers and syndicates of the harsh penalties they potentially face.
8. The approach Singapore has taken has resulted in it being one of the safest places in the world to live, relatively free of serious crime, and without the scourge of drug related crimes and homicides – which take thousands of lives, and destroys countless young people and families, in some countries.