|ACLS again urges Govt to abolish mandatory death sentence|
05:55 AM Nov 16, 2010
SINGAPORE - The Association of Criminal Lawyers of Singapore (ACLS) has again called for the abolition of the mandatory death sentence - this time in the latest issue of its newsletter, Pro Bono.
"The ACLS is in favour of the death penalty for the offence of murder. However, the ACLS is against the death sentence being mandatory," it said in an editorial.
In the run-up to changes to the Penal Code in 2007, the ACLS was among a number of groups advocating for discretion over the death penalty.
In its newsletter, it noted the imposition of a mandatory death sentence is arbitrary. The ACLS cited Sir Dennis Byron, Chief Justice of the Caribbean islands of St Vincent and the Grenadines and St Lucia, as saying: "If the death penalty is appropriate for the worst case of homicide, then it must surely be excessive punishment for the offender convicted of murder whose case is far removed from the worst case."
It also pointed out that a fair hearing is denied when no opportunity is given to the accused to offer mitigating circumstances before sentencing. Mitigation, the ACLS added, is "the normal procedure" in all other trials for non-capital offences.
Also, the ACLS said, sentencing is "a matter of law and part of the administration of justice which is the preserve of the Judiciary".
"Parliament should, therefore, only prescribe the maximum sentence and leave the courts to administer justice by sentencing offenders according to the gravity and circumstances of the case," it said.
The ACLS pointed out that under Article 93 of the Singapore Constitution, the judicial power is vested in the courts. It added that India, from which Singapore's Penal Code is derived, has since 1955 abolished the mandatory death penalty, as have the former British colonies of Kenya and Uganda.
"The ACLS urges the Government to abolish the mandatory death sentence for murder and to allow the courts discretion in sentencing convicted murderers. After all, our High Court judges have undergone a rigorous selection process to be chosen to exercise the judicial power of Singapore. And on their appointments, the judges have all affirmed or sworn to administer the law according to right and conscience."
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