13 June 2006

Courts must pay attention to the quality of justice

At what point does entrapment become illegitimate? The law on this has evolved considerably elsewhere, but do our courts even see this as an issue? In the same vein, why don't we compensate people who have been wrongly charged for criminal offences? Full essay.


Anonymous said...

It's not just about entrapment. If you had seen the system up close, you will see how stacked up it is against every accused. Ever wonder why fewer and fewer lawyers are called to the bar? Even the CJ has to exhort more to take up litigation. Do you know how many have left the the false wig occupation in the past 10 years? One lawyer told me he was the only one of his batch left practising. Quite a number have ran away with their clients money. Ever wonder why the enforcement agencies achieved almost 100% convictions? If you thought it's because of they are efficient and thorough, you'll be right only on the conviction part. Not in the dispensation of justice. Even those with 30/70 chance acquital give up when they see the odds stacked against them. I have only one other thing to say. It permeates through the system. Not just staying within the boundaries of politics, because the closest profession to politicians in this country are lawyers.

Anonymous said...

I'll like to add to your excellent article by addressing another aspect of the case.

The authorities' poor handling of this matter is best understood if we view the situation by removing any sexual content.

First: the original with sexual content.
A gay man is tempted to bring illegal drugs to a rendevous by undercover cops posing as prospective sexual partners.

Second: take away the sexual content.
A ___ man is tempted to commit an illegal act by undercover cops posing as ___ to attract him.

Third: now lets take an example that has no sexual content.
A ___ man is tempted to exceed the speed limit by undercover cops posing as ___ to attract him.

Go a bit further. Consider the amount of drugs - 0.16 gram - sneeze and they all get blown away. So I'll use the equivalent of 2 kph exceeding the speed limit.

Fourth: the same example quantified.
A ___ man is tempted to exceed the speed limit by 2 kph by undercover cops posing as ... etc.

You can see clearly how ridiculous it is when you take away the sexual content of the case.

Now, I can buy the arguement that the 0.16 gram is still illegal. If the man is caught in normal circumstances, I'll understand that he needs to be charged and the law must take it's course.

The main thing wrong in this sorry affair is that taxpayers are paying so much for police to prey on him and getting all the court's time involved when it's such a trivail matter. We are paying their wages and they are spending their time catching small fries. If there's any justice at all, I'll like to see these police officers face retrenchment since they are not contributing to society but instead is a drag on our economy (think of the cost of the court case and the 8 months jail expenses to us, the taxpayers).

To bring this matter in perspective, imagine if we have 100 of such cases caught this year. We'll need to build new court house to try the cases and add a new prison wing to keep them for 8 months. Can taxpayers afford to employ police officers to do what these guys did?

Roundup: by eliminating sexual content of the case, we see clearly how trivail it is, and we see how the police have wasted resources in preying on the victim, and that this sorry misdirection of resources has added to the drain of yet more resources in the courts and the prisons. All for something that disappears in a light breeze.

Robert L

Anonymous said...

From this and all other cases involving gay men, it is clear as crystal that when it comes to gays, the corrupt police force is nothing but a band of bloodthirsty hounds. Just like their political masters.

Anonymous said...

Houseman Yeo is the posterboy, the example that the government wants to hold up. He is the fall guy. He is the guy the government wants people to see and shudder and stop the behaviour that the government wishes to eradicate.

I don't believe it has much to do about the police as about PAP discipline of Singaporean citizens. Paternalistic behaviour, that is.

What I believe happened is that the govt has been concerned with 1) drug abuse 2) gay activity 3) drug abuse and gay activity among the "professional" community. This is its attempt to "preserve Asian values". It will tolerate the barest minimum of "deviance" to let the "deviant" Singaporeans "just survive" -- you know, like tolerating Geylang.

But the moment these "deviants" start getting complacent and emboldened, that's when the government decides it's time to smack them down and keep them in line again.

I bet the internet chat rooms are now ghost towns. I bet the buying and selling of drugs has plummeted. The little community that experienced this lifestyle is now shit scared. This is the desired effect.

I'm afraid Yeo will not win this case because he is the proverbial sacrificial lamb. Beat up the "pest" and hang it disembowelled outside your house for all the other pests to see so they will not even think about trying something like that again.

teck soon said...

There is much debate over whether the entrapment was ethical. But there seems to be no debate over whether the punishment fit the crime, or whether possession of a small amount of drugs should even be illegal. Many countries, such as The Netherlands and Canada have either legalized or de-criminalised soft drugs, with no effect on drug use rates. Why someone can smoke marijuana legally in the Netherlands and be hanged for possessing it in Singapore would seem to be a reasonable topic for debate. Eight months in prison for committing a crime for which there is no victim? Should it be illegal to harm oneself? It would seem that the damage done in this case - 8 months in prison, the breaking of a $400,000 bond, the outing of a gay person who didn't want the attention, and the ending of a medical career seems to be extremely harsh when considering the real "harm" that could have actually been done to our society.

Nelly said...

Thanks teck soon, for verbalising something that has in fact been on my mind as well.

Proportionality (of crime to punishment) is indeed a legal principle on which law should be based. Supposedly.

However, in Singapore, it was Lee Kuan Yew who set about distorting all of that. Take the James Gomez incident for example. (Hell. Take any lawsuit brought by government members against those opposed to them.)

What unspeakable and unpardonable crime did he do but to commit the all too common human experience of a momentary lapse in memory?

Not only does it show up even more than it already has that our laws are mutually exclusive of any notion of justice, it also proves once and for all that Lee Kuan Yew's law credentials exist only on paper.

Anonymous said...

I've read some discussions that begin to cast grave doubts on the probity of the case.

(1) It would seem likely that the police must have trailed Yeo for some time, thinking they can nab him on drug offences. However, no mention of trailing him was presented to the court (I think?). Hence we can possibly assume that they have found that Yeo's movements did not involve him with drugs. Now why is this relevant information suppressed from the court just because it is not useful to the prosecution's case? Isn't it duty-bound for the prosecution to present an impartial case and leave judgement to the court? I wonder if this constitutes a mistrial?

(2) When Yeo was arrested, there is no doubt that the police searched his house and office. Yet why was there no more drugs found? It is impossible to believe that Yeo only bought 0.16 gram of drug for his appointment, if in fact Yeo was really a habitual user. That puts into doubt the whole mitigation story that Yeo concocted. Can anybody advise whether any kind of duress is imposed on a mitigation plea that can make Yeo admit to something that he did not do? I really find it beyond belief that Yeo can be a habitual drug user and yet no drugs were found in his house and office.

Robert L

Anonymous said...

I feel that the article and the comments thus far have not been fair.

Indeed, you could say 0.16g is negligible, but I feel that should not be the substance of this debate.

The man was convicted of possession, not the trafficking charges that were brought against him initially. I feel this is completely legitimate.

From the archive newspaper article, Yeo admitted to possession. Entrapment to whatever extent only succeeded in obtaining a conviction of possession, a charge Yeo was certainly guilty of. Had he been convicted of trafficking, it would have been a travesty of justice but he was not.

Quote: "According to Yeo's mitigation presented in court, he initially refused the undercover officer's requests to meet him. While he admitted to the officer he had drugs, he said they were for his own consumption only."

Now the police could not have known for sure beforehand whether Yeo was holding onto 0.16g or 20g, and exactly what drugs he would turn up with. Having gone through the whole exercise, he was found to be a small fish but nonetheless had broken the law and was prosecuted accordingly.

I felt that you brought up very fair points on the reprehensible coverage of the papers but that the comments on the case itself were one-sided.

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

To the "anonymous" just above:

I didn't much comment on the court verdict in Adrian Yeo's case. My main point was simply that the defence counsel's argument about entrapment didn't seem to have been given enough thought, for the judge merely said entrapment was legal.

Just because there is no law against entrapment (for certainly there is no law FOR it) doesn't mean it is always right, which was why I brought up the Law Lords' comments.

Was Adrian Yeo's case justifiable or unjustifiable entrapment? I make no stand on this for lack of information.

Re posession as a crime by itself.... say the police, wanting to catch known associates of thieves, but can't find something to pin on Tan Ah Kow, entice Tan Ah Kow to hold a bag of stolen jewels overnight on behalf of Wong Ah Loke. Wong Ah Loke did steal the jewels, was caught by the police, but was "persuaded" to act as bait for the police. Wong meets Tan Ah Kow, and passes him the bag of jewels for safekeeping overnight in return for 10% commission.

The police then nab Tan for possessing stolen goods.

Can we say it is right to prosecute Tan? It's only possession, right, not theft? And possession was not in dispute?

Our justice system must be alert to these issues, which I think they are not.