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[Debate Closed] Motion: We should abolish the death penalty in Singapore (12 Oct – 2 Nov 2015)

Responses to this debate are moderated by the IPSCommons team in the interest of ensuring a civil exchange of views.
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  • Overview
  • Opening Statement12 Oct 2015
  • Response19 Oct 2015
  • Closing Statement27 Oct 2015

Representing the sides

  • Yes

    Mr Eugene Thuraisingam

    Mr Eugene Thuraisingam supports the motion. He read law at the National University of Singapore when he was placed on the final year Deans List with a good Second Upper Bachelors Degree in Law. He commenced practice at Allen & Gledhill in June 2001 and quickly rose through the ranks to be made a partner of the firm in January 2007. He then joined Stamford Law Corporation in 2009 as a Director and was one of the pioneers of its Dispute Resolution Department until he left in 2012 to set up his own practice.  He now leads a firm of 5 lawyers specialising in Criminal and Commercial Litigation.

    He is known to be a fiery advocate with a penchant for fighting for justice. He has spoken at dialogues on perspectives on the death penalty. He has successfully represented clients facing the death penalty in both the High Court and the Court of Appeal and has succeeded in applying to Court on behalf of clients previously sentenced to death for resentencing under the new amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act.

  • No

    Mr Tan Peng Chin

    Mr Joseph Tan Peng Chin opposes the motion. He graduated with a Second Class Upper LLB from the National University of Singapore in 1982.   He started his legal career with Freshfields when it was the only International law firm that was allowed to practice Singapore laws.  Mr Tan was one of the founding partners and also the Managing Partner of Wong, Yoong, Tan and Molly Lim before he founded Tan Peng Chin & Partners in 1994,  which is now known as Tan Peng Chin LLC.  Mr Tan is a solicitor specialising in Corporate Finance,  Banking, Mergers and  Acquisitions,  Corporate and Commercial laws whose practice  includes many substantial cross border transactions.   His clients include International Banks such as Rabobank,  Societe Generale, DZ Bank , China Construction Bank,  and Multinational Corporations such as Hoya Corporation, Deloitte, Huber + Suhner, Danisco and TDK.

    Mr Tan is presently Chairman of Clarity Singapore, a charity under the auspices of Caritas (the Catholic Church) ministering to people with mental illness, was a Board Member of the National Cancer Center Institutional Review Board,  is a Director of various listed companies in Singapore and elsewhere,  and was a volunteer with the Roman Catholic Prison Ministry where he was a counsellor to many long term prisoners including prisoners who had been on death row.

    Mr Tan is now a Consultant at Tan Peng Chin LLC.

About this debate

Singapore’s uncompromising stance on crime has given it a reputation as an extremely safe city.

The death penalty has been a part of Singapore’s criminal justice system for a long time, similar to a number of other countries. The government says it has been an effective deterrent against serious crime and drug offences. Capital punishment is mandatory for certain offences such as first-degree murder, kidnapping and the trafficking of drugs above a certain quantity. In 2012, the government announced changes to the application of the mandatory death penalty for certain drug-related and homicide offences. If specific and tightly defined conditions are met, the application of the death penalty will be at the discretion of the courts.

In 2014, Law Minister K Shanmugam explained Singapore’s rationale in  maintaining the death penalty, at an event on the sidelines of a United Nations General Assembly meeting. He said: “No civilised society can glorify in the taking of life. The question is whether, in very limited circumstances, it is legitimate to have the death penalty so that the larger interest of society is served.”

The death penalty continues to be a topic of debate in Singapore. On one end of the spectrum are those who call for the death penalty to be abolished. They question the effectiveness of the death penalty as a deterrent, citing comparative studies which show no correlation between crime rates and the death penalty. They say that Singapore should move towards a more humane justice system where the goal is to rehabilitate rather than to punish offenders. On the other end, there are those who fear that the abolishment of the death penalty will be interpreted as the government going soft on criminals, leading to an increase in crime and social problems. Yet others suggest the death penalty should apply for some crimes but not others.

What do you think? Should the death penalty be abolished altogether, or should it be kept as a component of our justice system?

 

Reading List

1. The Death Penalty in Singapore and International Law 2004

2. Enhancing Our Drug Control Framework and Review of the Death Penalty — Ministerial Statement by DPM Teo Chee Hean 9 July 2012

3. Why Death Penalty is Needed – Letter to the ST Forum Page 8 January 2013

4. Changes to the Mandatory Death Penalty Regime — An Overview of the Changes and Some Preliminary Reflections September 2013

5. Some Criminals “Deserve Default Death Sentence” 20 May 2014

6. Tinkering with the Machinery of Death 24 May 2014

7. Transcript of Statement by Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Law K Shanmugam at the High-Level Side Event at the 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly 25 September 2014

8. Shift in Attitudes Towards Death Penalty 28 April 2015

Mr Eugene Thuraisingam

Yes

12th October 2015

Yes, we should abolish the death penalty in Singapore

To kill another person is wrong. Why should that be any different when killing takes place in the name of the state? As a criminal defence lawyer who has acted for clients facing the death penalty and who continues to fight against capital punishment, I believe that there can never be any justification for the death penalty. Accordingly, I object to capital punishment remaining a sentencing option in Singapore.

We cannot and do not even begin to understand why we are here and where we came from. If we cannot even answer where life comes from, how on earth can we claim the power to take it away?

Human beings are fallible and none of us can honestly say that there is any criminal justice system in the world that can claim absolute certainty of guilt in convicting a person. The legal test in common law jurisdictions is one of proving a case beyond reasonable doubt. Human failings and error aside, the very test itself does not contemplate the trier of fact being absolutely certain of guilt. Can we then say with any honesty and conviction that every person who is executed is guilty? In fact, we know that there will be innocent persons executed. Is this something we should continue to accept?

Kirk Bloodsworth was the first person in the United States to be exonerated through DNA testing in 1993. By that time, Kirk Bloodsworth had spent more than eight years (including two years on death row) for a crime that he did not commit. What if the United States had as efficient a killing machine as we have in Singapore? Innocent blood would have been spilled and no one would have been the wiser. How many people like Bloodsworth has our state killing machine dispensed with?

Some cases immediately spring to mind.

Took Leng How was a simpleton who was convicted of murdering an eight-year-old girl. The state of the evidence which the trial judge considered in his conviction of Took, led a very senior judge in the Court of Appeal to issue a dissenting opinion exonerating Took. Yet, on a majority ruling of 2–1 by the Court of Appeal, Took was put to death. In a recent case of Public Prosecutor v Hamidah Binte Awang and another [2015] SGHC 4, a 29-year-old Nigerian was acquitted by the trial judge on a capital drug trafficking charge after being imprisoned for more than three years in Singapore. The trial judge found that the Nigerian had proved on the balance of probability (there being presumptions of guilt in drug trafficking cases) that he was not guilty of drug trafficking. That is, he not just showed reasonable doubt of whether he was innocent or guilty, but had proved his innocence on the balance of probabilities.

Following the Prosecution’s appeal, the Court of Appeal, without having the advantages that the trial judge (as a trier of fact) had, allowed the appeal and convicted the 29-year-old of the capital charge. The conflicting opinions of very senior judges in the High Court and the Court of Appeal in Took’s case, the Nigerian case and various other cases lead one to question if it is at all possible to administer the death penalty with any measure of certainty as to guilt. Are we even killing the right people?

Deterrence is an oft-cited rational for the death penalty. Yet, there is a complete absence of clear or reliable evidence that the death penalty is a more effective deterrent than other forms of punishment. In examining the deterrent effect of the death penalty, there is also a need to weigh the drawbacks of capital punishments with its supposed advantages. Are judges more reluctant to find defendants guilty if there is a chance that they might be executed? Does the death penalty affect other innocent third parties more than other types of punishment? Do families of convicts suffer more and are they not also victims of the death penalty regime? Even if we accept that the death penalty deters criminals to a marginally greater extent than the supposed lesser punishment of life imprisonment, is it not morally abhorrent to execute someone (who may be innocent) just to prevent the supposed criminal act of someone else in the indeterminable future?

In conclusion and in the words of the former Pakistani Minister for National Harmony and Minority Affairs, Paul Jacob Bhatti: “There is no justice without life, and you can’t appreciate life if you don’t reject death.

Mr Tan Peng Chin

No

12th October 2015

No, we should not abolish the death penalty in Singapore

Most of us will agree that the main purpose of any punishment is that it should:

1. Exact some kind of penalty on the offender so that the victim will feel that his suffering has been avenged;

2. Rehabilitate the offender so that he will become a better person and realise the mistake or harm that he had caused; and

3. Deter not only the offender, but also others from committing the crime.

I will focus on the issue of deterrence. I will not deal with 1 and 2. Since the alternative to the death penalty is life imprisonment, if this is the maximum penalty that the state can impose, then it should be sufficient punishment to avenge the crime. Also, rehabilitation is not relevant if the offender is to be spending the rest of his life in prison.

The world, including Singapore, has become more civilised, but unfortunately human society is not completely civilised. There are still people who are as comfortable with killing a fellow human being as slaughtering a chicken, and who for profit are prepared to commit the most heinous crimes regardless of the harm or damage it can cause to individuals or society.

Fortunately, even though some people may no longer be afraid of the authorities or even God, the same people are still afraid of dying.

I was a volunteer with the Roman Catholic Prison Ministry for many years, and based on my interaction with many prisoners, including hardcore criminals, I have concluded that the only punishment that criminals are afraid of, is the death penalty.

There was an occasion when we were counselling an inmate who was about to be caned. The older prisoners tried to comfort him, but within 10 minutes, it became a kind of a boasting session, where many of the more seasoned prisoners were telling the novice that compared to the “good old days” the caning he was about to receive was for “women”, and was a “piece of cake”. Even though the maximum number of strokes that can be handed down by the courts is 24, I know of many prisoners who have been caned more than 50 strokes over many prison terms. I also know that many prisoners would be prepared to receive more caning if this can be exchanged for a shorter prison term.

As such, even though caning is very painful (most prisoners will take about 1 to 2 weeks to fully recover from the ordeal), for hardcore prisoners and for many who have been caned before, in my view it is not much of a deterrent.

Let me now deal with some of the other arguments against the death penalty, the most important of which is that once the sentence is carried out, the mistake can never be rectified.

Based on my experience as a prison counsellor, I believe that unless both the Attorney General’s Chambers and the judges hearing the case are at least 200% sure that the accused is guilty of the capital offence, he will not be given the death penalty. In this regard, I have come across drug traffickers who were sure they would be executed, but somehow or other it turned out that the amount of drugs they were carrying did not cross the threshold; and murderers who have killed numerous times, and yet are not on death row as they were successful in pleading the defence of diminished responsibility . Therefore, in the Singapore context, because of our unique and prudent judicial system, I believe it is more likely for a person to be killed on the roads, than for an innocent person to be hanged. In my view, unless our judges have no doubt whatsoever that the accused has committed the capital offence they will not pass a death sentence. This is notwithstanding the strict legal requirement that the prosecution need only prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.

Another argument against the death penalty is that it is an inhumane or cruel way to die. Is dying by hanging more painful, uncomfortable or traumatic than, say, being bludgeoned to death or dying from a debilitating cancer, where after sometime even the morphine is unable to ameliorate the pain? In most murder cases, did the killer give his victim a painless, comfortable and easy way to die? Is hanging more miserable than dying from a drug overdose? One should also not forget the pain or suffering of family members whose relative had been murdered or destroyed by drugs.

Many of us who have never been imprisoned before cannot imagine how hard, meaningless and demoralising prison life can be. Even though all of us believe that life is precious, very few appreciate what a living hell life imprisonment can be. Some proponents against the death penalty seem to forget that sooner or later, all of us will die.

The world has become more civilised, but it has also become a lot more competitive, demanding and stressful. More people are feeling marginalised or lost. Humanity has become more confused. It has never been difficult for unscrupulous criminals to make use of simple misguided persons to do their illicit tasks and to hurt others. With modern technology and globalisation it has become even easier for radicals and extremists to sway the disgruntled and perhaps criminally inclined persons to subscribe to their perverted idealogies. As a result, the harm and damage that a really evil person can cause today is tremendous.

As such, to safeguard Singapore society and to ensure that criminals or potential criminals are deterred from committing the most heinous crimes, I submit that Singapore should not completely abolish the death penalty.

comments

  • The unavailability of statistics cripples this debate from the outset. For those that support the death penalty, a key proposition is deterrence. However, our state has been opaque in making statistics available to the public. Until there is clear evidence of a link between the death penalty and the corresponding crime rate for offences punishable by death, the deterrence argument will remain an instinctive conjecture. We might be assisted by statistical studies from other jurisdictions where data is readily available. In 2009, a study was published in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology entitled, “Do Executions lower Homicide Rates: The Views of Leading Criminologists?” This study adopted the methodology of surveying leading Criminologists in the USA. The assumption being made is that their views have been conditioned by their own empirical research. The study revealed that overall 94% agreed that there was little empirical evidence to support the deterrent effect of the death penalty.
    I support the abolition of the death penalty purely on moral grounds. The death penalty is a conscious, premeditated form of state killing that is mandated by the law.

    Subramaniam Thirumeni Posted on: Nov 02, 2015

  • Mr Tan’s conclusion that the DP deters is based completely upon his own anecdotal evidence. He provides no empirical evidence to substantiate his claim. However, given the wide-ranging implications of penal policies on real people, such policies must be justified based on concrete criminological data and statistics, rather than on individual personal experience. Especially because the death penalty is the most severe form of punishment, those who seek to impose such a punishment have to justify it. On this front, Mr. Tan has not discharged his burden of proof. In fact, Mr. Tan avoids this responsibility by arguing that even if it is impossible to prove its deterrent effect, the death penalty should still be imposed.

    Even assuming that the death penalty is indeed an effective deterrent, compelling reasons still exist as to why the death penalty should not be imposed.

    What needs to be noted is Mr. Tan is not just suggesting that the offender be punished because of what he has done, but primarily to deter potential criminals. The very crux of deterrence is to punish the offender in order to deter would-be offenders. Essentially, we are punishing the offender to prevent would-be criminals from offending, even though the offender is not personally responsible for crimes committed by these hypothetical criminals. In this respect, we are also punishing the offender for an offence he has not committed, and in which he is “innocent”. But I suspect that Mr. Tan would accept this, since he is willing to run the risk of executing innocent people. In that case, and by extension from the deterrent logic, Mr. Tan must also be prepared to defend and argue that we should consider executing the loved ones of those who commit murder/drug trafficking, since it does not matter that the subject of punishment is not responsible for the crime. Arguably, one might argue that executing the loved ones of the accused might provide an even greater deterrent effect.

    Yet, if we flinch at such a suggestion, it might because we recognize that there are moral limits on punishment.The biggest problem with Mr. Tan’s argument is that he recognizes no such limits on how far we may go to achieve the goal of deterrence. Thus, any such punishment, including the execution of the loved ones of the accused, can be justified on Mr. Tan’s grounds. Perhaps deterrence does not provide an adequate justification after all, unless we are prepared to accept that there are no limits as to how far we may go to achieve the effect of deterrence, and the cost and trade-offs that accompanies it.

    Mr. Tan then goes on to supplement the deterrence argument by arguing that the offender has committed a serious crime and deserves punishment (although as have been noted above, the deterrence argument punishes the offender more so for the crime he is not responsible for). His argument here is confusing. In his opening statement, he makes the argument that “if the maximum punishment (e.g., life imprisonment) is imposed on the murderer, then it should be sufficient punishment to avenge his crime”. But he then concludes that the death penalty should be imposed for such abominable crimes. If deterrence is the deciding factor why the punishment should be death instead of life, then the problems of deterrence in justifying the death penalty that have been highlighted above requires proponents of the death penalty to look for other justifications to support their contention.

    Priscilla Chia Posted on: Nov 02, 2015

  • InIn Kho Jabing’s unique case, the fact that there were disagreements on whether the death sentence was appropriate, not just from ordinary citizens like myself, or law students, or even lawyers, but experienced judges from the appealate court and also the high court should make us examine more carefully the meaning of the term ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. Is it reasonable doubt when it is 33.33%? Some may say yes, some may say no.

    However, this should show that there certainly needs more debate on the application of our laws to understand them, to improve them. Also more deliberations need to be made upon the impact the death penalty has on our community, on families from both sides.

    Mr. Tan asks a few questions in conclusion. I will provide responses to each of them below.

    1) Do most people agree that Singapore is a much safer society than many other similar countries?

    Yes but it would be a mistake to think that it is the sole result of laws like the death penalty.

    2) What is it that makes Singapore a much safer country and society?

    It is more so on the dedication of the public service who serve with the best of their abilities within the functions that the law and public institutions provide. If the death penalty or any other law is replaced, I do not think the dedication of our men and women of the civil service would waver the slightest, therefore it would not diminish the commitment or responsibility of the judiciary or the home team to keep crime at bay.

    3) If Singapore did not have perceived “draconian” measures against drug trafficking, would we end up having a much more serious drug problem?

    Again it is not just the draconian laws which make our society safer from drugs and other crimes which have strong links to social and economic factors. It is simplistic and non-factual to think that the authorities’ efforts in the ongoing protection against drug crimes do not involve connecting or strengthening the communities, to be more resilient from such social ills. Just searching through the official website of the Singapore Police Force on anti-drug efforts and campaigns will confirm this.

    Historically the death penalty is a remnant of a bygone era. An era where the sophistication of research in areas of crime, law, justice, social issues and etcetera, was not available. Where compassion needed to be traded in for the sake of justice.

    Singapore is currently perfectly poised to balance this by expanding our capacity for compassion. In this era, where Singapore seeks to benefit from being a knowledge-based economy which values intellectual capability more than ever before, we certainly have the capacity to seek to replace blunt punishments like the death penalty with sharper, more sensitive ones which take into account their holistic effects within the community and to all parties involved.

    Additionally with the continued dedication of the men and women within our public service, I believe that we can choose life just as Mr Eugene Thuraisingam has proclaimed, to better uphold justice and express compassion for both the individual and society. Is a just society which is also compassionate not for the benefit of all, for both present and for future generations?

    Soe Min Than Posted on: Oct 30, 2015

  • In defense of Kho Jabing’s unique case, the fact that there were disagreements on whether the death sentence was appropriate, not just from ordinary citizens like myself, or law students, or even lawyers, but experienced judge. from the appealate court and also the high court should make us examine the meaning of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. Is it reasonable doubt when it is 33.33%? Some may say yes, some may say no.

    However, there certainly needs more diliberations on the impact the death penalty has on our community, on families from both sides.

    Mr. Tan asks the followi

    Soe Min Than Posted on: Oct 30, 2015

  • Section 300(c) of the Penal Code prescribes that an act is murder “if it is done with the intention of causing bodily injury to any person, and the bodily injury intended to be inflicted is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death”.

    With or without such a definition written down in the Penal Code, the death penalty is in fact the most premeditated form of murder in the world in which each and every step, from the passing of the sentence to the execution itself, is conducted with the intention to end a human life. The only thing that stops many from perceiving it as murder, is the fact that it is carried out with the approval and sponsorship of the state, and in the name of justice. On top of that, there seems to be an automatic acceptance that the existence of a retributive justice system is the only way a society can work to maintain or uphold justice of any kind. Perhaps it is time that we explore the possibility of judicial reform, and make a gradual transformation to having a justice system that is based on the principles of restorative justice.

    I do not agree with the act of killing any criminals, because it is a short cut method of “justice” that has not proven to be a deterrent against crimes, nor does it actually work to solve any social issues leading to the occurrence of crimes. When a crime happens, the focus is often placed on the crime itself rather than factors leading to the crime (e.g., existence of adversity of any kind) which is certainly myopic. There is no place for the death penalty in this day and age, and I strongly believe that it should be abolished.

    Rachel Zeng Posted on: Oct 21, 2015

  • Mr Tan’s opening statement is awful and fraught with major undefendable assumptions and most worryingly for a secular state, repeatedly references religion as a moral benchmark for our secular society.

    Firstly, he takes prisoners’ coping mechanism of caning (braggadocio) at total face value and assumes that it therefore is not a deterrent at all. Come on, it obviously isn’t the case. After being restrained and whipped like an animal, men who are socially conditioned not to display weakness are trying to salvage what little pride they can. To a sensible person, it shouldn’t mean that it automatically makes them completely unafraid of it.

    Secondly, without meaningful substantiation, he repeatedly makes the case that deterrence WILL prevent crime. Firstly, he assumes that Singapore’s low crime rate is automatically due to capital punishment without any causal evidence. He also ignores evidence that everywhere else, deterrent justice systems are less successful in preventing repeat offenses compared to rehabilitation focused systems.

    He also assumes revenge is the best way to make victims feel better (not true).

    Last of all, he assumes the only alternative is life imprisonment

    Bryan Gan Posted on: Oct 14, 2015

  • Mr Thuraisingam makes the better argument here by raising the fact that there is no conclusive evidence that the death penalty has any unique efficacy re: deterrence. Mr Tan strongly believes in the deterrent power of the death penalty, but his support draws almost entirely from anecdotal experience.

    Given the gravity of the situation, I believe that the burden of proof should lie on death penalty advocates to prove that the death penalty is more efficacious than alternative punishments (such as caning and life imprisonment) in order to justify its existence. Mr Thuraisingam rightly points out that this evidence needs to be “clear or reliable” – Mr Tan’s anecdotes are neither, and by failing to meet the standard, vindicates Mr Thuraisingam’s point.

    Nigel Na Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • I am reminded of the expression, “There but for the grace of god go I”. Everyone makes mistakes in their lives, sometimes very serious mistakes, sometimes committed in the heat of the moment or due to other circumstances, but no-one is beyond reform and rehabilitation. The playing field is not level at birth, and some of us commit a foul whilst engaging in the game of life, for which we deserve to get sent off the playing field to the side line while we reflect on our actions and make improvements. But it is not a reason to turn out the lights. Even the referee may make an error in calling the foul and only later utilising new scientific advancements does that error become apparent. To argue for abolishing the death penalty is not an argument that there should be no punishment. Incarceration and removal from society, potentially for a lengthy period, is a strong and appropriate punishment. Imprisonment and the loss of privacy, liberty and opportunity, having to watch as the world goes by without you, is a powerful disincentive to commit crime. It serves the purpose of retribution for the victim. There are studies which show that adding the death penalty to the punishment regime does not add to crime deterrence. Indeed we live in a relatively safe environment, and long may it remain so, but there are several possible explanations for this, and no certainty that it is due to the presence of the death penalty. It is time for society to show its humanity.

    Bill Bowman Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • I believe in the equal value of every human life, and that means a person is no less valuable in existing just because they committed a crime, no matter how grievous it might be. Every person is entitled to the opportunity to receive forgiveness from those whom he or she has hurt or brought pain to, as well as the chance to mend his or her ways — be it in spending the rest of his/her life in prison or part of it inside and part outside.

    Many a prison volunteer can attest to countless stories of prisoners on death row who have experienced true repentance and were at peace with themselves before being sent to the gallows. The lives of these men and women could have been saved and spent more fruitfully, contributing to society.

    Indeed it can be argued they may still be dangerous, so it may be more worthwhile to monitor their progress, and should they really repeat their crimes, lock them away for the rest of their lives — no matter what happens, snuffing out a life makes no sense and has little proven deterrent effect against serious crime either.

    Jeanette Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • Call me the naive idealist but my reasons for wanting the death penalty abolished are simple.

    They presuppose a fundamental humanistic instinct inherent in all human beings, which is the valuing of human life. Human life has worth and dignity, be that of the aristocrat or the pauper, the bourgeoisie or the proletariat and as such the taking away of human life is antithetical to eudaimonia, or human flourishing. This includes the murder of an apparent criminal by the judiciary.

    Punitive justice to me is not justice in the truest sense of the word as two wrongs in this case will not make a right. It only renders shameless the legal system and its enforcers.

    Benjamin Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • I have not seen any research on the effect of of the death penalty and crime rates in Singapore.

    The late Father G Arotcarena who spent many years administering to prisoners and looking after the welfare of ex offenders had this to say about death row inmates and the death penalty:

    “I can testify that, in most of these men, something human remained which only needed to be revived and maintained. The death penalty is nothing but an act of vengeance. It has nothing to do with justice. It lowers the society that imposes it, bringing it to the level of the criminals against whom it uses the sentence, supposedly to protect itself. As Confucius said: “He who gives way to vengeance digs two graves: one for his enemy and the other for himself.” The Singapore government would do itself proud if it abolished the death penalty. Unfortunately, it has not reached that point yet.” I am optimistic that the death penalty will be abolished one day.

    Teo Soh Lung Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • I support the abolition of the death penalty in Singapore because the benefits to society are far outweighed by the associated risks.

    As Mr. Tan indicates, the main benefit of the death penalty is its deterrent potential. But logically, the death penalty only deters those who do not fear the next harshest punishment. In Singapore, it would deter only those criminals who do not fear life in prison, but who fear an earlier death. Surely this cannot be all (or even most) criminals?

    Against this, we must set the real risk of executing an undeserving person, which has been dealt with in detail by previous commentators.

    Mr Tan believes it is more likely for a person to be killed on the roads than for an innocent person to be hanged. That is not the comparison we should make. We should instead ask: Can we, in good conscience, trade the risk of executing undeserving human beings for the narrow slice of deterrence the death penalty adds to our justice system? My personal answer is no.

    Qabir Sandhu Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • “I understand there are usually about two dozen witnesses to these executions and I sometimes wonder about those who will be at mine, unknown, faceless men rooting for me to die, happy to see me breathe my last breath. I wonder about men who do not know me, have never met me, never broken bread with me and who know nothing about what’s in my heart, who nonetheless are anxious, eager, happy to see me die.
    It does not bother me, but I wonder if it will ever bother any of those men (and yes, it’s almost always men, with their lust for blood; women seldom indulge in this), perhaps in their sunset years when they reflect back on their youth and wonder about their imperatives. I hope, for their sakes, that one day they will be ashamed — or at least disappointed — with their naked blood lust and will determine to henceforth set a better example for those following behind them.” -William Van Poyck, executed June 12, 2013 in the US

    By directly participating in the execution process, prison workers have to face the moral implications of knowingly participating in the act of killing another human being. At the same time, those responsible for carrying out the execution do not have the benefit of having heard all evidence presented at the trial. Many times the doubt of the condemned person’s guilt is a heavy burden on the consciences of those that have to perform the execution.

    “If you let the judge be the executioner, I think he would give a second thought about sending somebody to be executed.” -Jerry Givens, retired Executioner, Virginia Department of Corrections.
    “There is nothing commonplace about walking a healthy young man to a room, strapping him into a chair, and coldly, methodically killing him.” -Donald Cabana, former Warden, Mississippi State Penitentiary.

    It is a false assumption to think that in the body’s mode of “flight or fight”, when adrenaline hormones are being pumped throughout the body for aggressive, vigorous action, that we are able to pause and think about our fate calmly, about what constitutes manslaughter, grievous hurt, or maybe to check with a lawyer. Plea bargaining in drugs cases here assumes that all couriers, lowest level members in syndicates know enough for “substantively assisting in CNB’s operations to disrupt drug trafficking activities within or outside of Singapore”.

    On the definitions of retribution and revenge, it may be defined differently depending on where the terms are used. However if you look at psychological studies, revenge is called the psychology of retribution. In studies related to perceptions of justice, feelings of revenge have been specifically addressed. They reveal what is called the “revenge paradox” and that “rather than providing closure, [taking our revenge] does the opposite: It keeps the wound open and fresh”.
    Some scientists believe that revenge is a primitive instinct that has been left over from the days of our early ancestors during their struggle for survival as tribes. Additionally that the human race later developed, a forgiveness instinct “that enables people to suppress the desire for revenge and signal their willingness to continue on, even though someone has harmed their interests, assuming the person will refrain from doing so again in the future” (Michael McCullough, PhD, Professor of Psychology at the University of Miami).

    In the April 2011 issue of the European Journal of Social Psychology a study showed that “If the message (the offender’s recognizing of his wrongdoing) is not delivered, it cannot re-establish justice” (Mario Gollwitzer, psychological scientist). This suggests that it is not the form of punishment but the effect of a punishment producing guilt for the offender, as being more valuable to victims of wrongdoing. Therefore capital punishment need not be the only ‘worthy’ punishment for the most violent/serious crimes in relating to the victim’s loved ones, or the victim’s interest. It is another false assumption to think that the victim would want another’s life to be taken away from another family, from another loved one.

    All of the above suggest that justice can be better achieved if the punishment manages to balance the revenge instinct (knowledge of wrongdoer’s guilt) with the forgiveness instinct (on condition that the wrongdoer has reformed). The simplest of generalisations is to kill the worst wrongdoers of our time, and those who remain living will be safe, better for it. However can we still afford such simplistic thinking by ignoring the rigorous but worthy exercise of ethics and ethical standards? Can we still truly believe that a person who ends up on death row is the only one that suffers? What about the family and loved ones, such as children? What is the real social impact of killing prisoners? The executed can no longer commit future wrongdoing to society just as surely as the murder victim can no longer contribute to society. However what is the real cost of giving death to a prisoner, which also renders him/her no longer able to contribute, versus life imprisonment, which still allows some contribution to society (at the very minimum to their families, or prison community)?

    The state takes on the responsibility, and its civil servants carry out the deed, from arrest, prosecution, judgement to execution. Moreover, it is for the sake of the rest of us, for our safety, for society. The state should rightly lay out the real costs of capital punishment. Comprehensive studies should focus on the effects, to the families of victims lost to violent crime, to families of those executed, to health of death row prison staff, to rate of violent crime, to rate of drug offenses, to mental state of death row prisoners in last days leading up to time of execution and to other relevant social factors. The question of why the death penalty did not deter those who committed the crime also needs to be explicitly addressed. An extensive review of other alternative policies practiced in other states and to explicitly state which ones may/ may not be suitable here and why, is also needed.

    Without such information to review before deciding to take a human life seems grossly unethical. All this would have been impossible undertakings 50 years ago during the time of our earlier generation of pioneering leaders but very manageable now in this modern age of research and shared global knowledge systems. Such research and knowledge would also be greatly valued regardless of the findings and Singapore may be better poised and also in urgent need for such comprehensive studies than any other nation due to its population density and limited land mass.

    Soe Min Than Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • It is inhuman to kill another person whatever the reason is. We must not be murderers ourselves.

    I disagree that the reason of death penalty is to deter offender. Most likely he’ll be in jail under the highest security.

    I disagree that the reason of death penalty is to deter others doing heinous crimes. Why must someone be punished to death, to deter something that may or may not be done in the future, moreover by others?

    Since Mr Tan Peng Chin mentioned the Roman Catholic, it forbids killing another person. It’s stated in the Ten Commandments.

    Handaya Rusli Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • I’m against the death penalty due to how it has falsely killed so many people worldwide due to racial (and other) bias. Studies also suggest that it takes more money to send someone to hang than it does to keep them imprisoned forever. The death penalty is also proven to not be a deterrent for crime so much that it is an easy way out for criminals who’d rather die than be imprisoned indefinitely. Also it’s unfair in other ways: sending someone who killed one person to hang vs the same punishment for someone who killed fifteen. They say someone forfeits their right to life when they kill but if they killed fifteen times we can’t kill them fifteen times over, can we? Also it’s plain cruel and medieval to kill people for drug trafficking.

    Drima Chakraborty Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • 1. Simply read Mhd Kadar v PP [2011] SGCA 32 and any fantasies about 200% certainty will be immediately dispelled. What emerges is shocking, to say the least.

    2. If prison life is “hard, meaningless and demoralising”, surely life imprisonment is an effective deterrent.

    3. Who are we really punishing by executing people? I submit it is their family members who effectively, have to endure their relative being legally killed by the State. Why should they be punished instead of the offender having to spend a lifetime reflecting on his crime, apart from society?

    4. Mr Tan touches only on violent crime. What about death penalty for drug mules? His eye for an eye rationale holds no sway here.

    5. Most developed countries have abolished the death penalty. Why?

    Has the lack of executions for the past 50 years resulted in increased crime rates in places like Scandanavia, which enjoys comparable crime rates with Singapore? No.

    It does not effectively deter non-premeditated crime.

    Jared Dass Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • There is no simply convincing evidence that harsher penalties deter crime. In 2012 by a committee of the American National Academy of Sciences National Review Council reviewed 34 years of research on the death penalty and homicide in the US and concluded that “it is impossible to draw credible findings about the effect of the death penalty on homicide”. With – literally – life and death at stake, it is heinously irresponsible and unethical to continue killing human beings on such a shaky foundation.

    Jolene Tan Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • Mr Tan Peng Chin argued that the courts would never impose the death penalty upon someone unless they were 200% sure of his/her guilt. How does he reconcile this 200% confidence with cases where there are dissenting judgements? As Mr Thuraisingam pointed out, there was a dissenting judge in Took Leng How’s case – yet he was executed anyway. As I write this Sarawakian Kho Jabing is sitting on death row even though two out of the five judges on the Court of Appeal bench felt he should not be sentenced to death. Unanimous decisions are not required in Singapore for the death sentence to be imposed or upheld – how is this the overwhelming confidence that Mr Tan described?

    Kirsten Han Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • Both Kho Jabing and Khaddar case shows the resilience and impartiality of the court system in Singapore for the severity of imposing the death penalty.
    The facts of the cases are clear in which the perpetrators are identified.
    In regards to the mens rear argument by critics, it would be better as a considered judgement by the panel rather than the chorus of anti death penalty activists.
    Furthermore, for heinous crimes against children or even serial murderers, it is blatant injustice for the victims or families of such victims to know that such perpetrators remain among them, yet at times, the dismissive arguments and ridicule heaped by such activists are beyond the pale.

    Wang Posted on: Nov 02, 2015

  • Although I am in agreement with TPC’s argument that the death penalty should continue to be imposed, but only “for the very heinous crimes or crimes that cause tremendous harm to society so that criminals or potential criminals will be deterred from committing such crimes” I would like to say that the questions raised by him in the concluding part of his post have little or no bearing in serving as arguments for his stance against the motion for the debate.

    1) Do most people agree that Singapore is a much safer society than many other similar countries?

    Singapore may be a safer society compared with some other countries but the issue of safety may have nothing to do with the fact that the death penalty is a feature of its laws.

    2) If Singapore did not have perceived “draconian” measures against drug trafficking, would we end up having a much more serious drug problem?

    How can we ever provide a meaningful answer without relevant statistics or from past experience, from both sides of the line?

    Countries without the death penalty – do they have higher cases of drug trafficking compared with Singapore? Even if the answer is Yes, other factors, besides the death penalty, may be involved. If the answer is No, does it support the argument that the death penalty is a reason for the lower incidence of drug trafficking? The answer is a resounding NO, as there may be a diversity of factors or reasons.

    Regrettably, both debaters seem to have disregarded the comments posted in the comments section. Nothing specific was raised about pointers made by observers to the debate.

    Richard Woo Posted on: Nov 01, 2015

  • Eugene: I choose life… because the sanctity of life is not something we can take upon ourselves to violate.

    Eugene’s assertion “the sanctity of life is not something we can take upon ourselves to violate” leaves the avenue open for further discussion or debate.

    What does he mean by “sanctity of life”? Is he talking of human life or any kind of life? OK, let’s assume he is referring to human life – and my question is: What about non-human life, say, the cow, the pig, the chicken, etc? And why should only human life be considered sanctimonious, if the term “sanctity” cannot and should not apply to non-human life? Is Eugene connected to a certain religiosity and takes the view that people are made in God’s image and that human life has an inherently sacred attribute that should be protected and respected at all times? If he thinks that sanctity is applicable to human life only, is such thinking based on his religious upbringing? What justification can he provide for thinking that non-human life, unlike human life, is not sanctimonious?

    In his opening statement Eugene has made the claim that it is wrong to kill another person but here he is clearly offering the justification that it is not wrong for a policeman shooting and killing an armed criminal intent on committing mass murder. He says: “…with a known criminal armed with an automatic rifle, there is no doubt that he will commit mass murder if he is not stopped. This — the certainty of harm that will be caused — is the fundamental difference between the state condoning the killing of a person facing the death penalty and the policeman killing an armed criminal with the intention to commit mass murder.”

    Here, Eugene seems to have taken the position that there is no doubt that the armed criminal would kill if he is not killed first; prevention [or deterrence?] is better than cure, as most of us might agree. But how can he justify his certainty that the criminal in question would commit mass murder if left alone? Of course, one has to factor in all relevant factors, to justify one’s actions or thoughts. Can we argue there is a chance that the armed criminal may not commit mass murder if left alone? Appearances alone can be deceptive. However, we can never tell, for sure. So, we may still argue that killing the criminal in the circumstances may be justified, to obviate the risks of him killing other people. If Eugene accepts that it is not wrong in the policeman killing the criminal, in the scenario we have described, then Eugene has to admit that it is not wrong to kill another person – where there is ethical or legal justification for doing so; hence he should now admit that he has made an error of judgment in saying in his opening statement that it is wrong to kill another person.

    Eugene’s concluding comment: “In conclusion, I highlight that the rights and wrongs of the death penalty have been debated over many decades and there is still no clear universal stance taken on it. Perhaps there will never be a universal stance taken, and if so, in the face of such moral dilemma, I say we should always choose life.”

    It is clear: Eugene may choose life while others may prefer death over life.

    Regrettably, both debaters seem to have disregarded the comments posted in the comments section. Nothing specific was raised about pointers made by observers to the debate.

    Richard Woo Posted on: Nov 01, 2015

  • In the case of Kho Jabing which Ms Kirsten Han refers to in her comments in favour of abolishing the death penalty, it was not in doubt that Jabing attempted to rob the deceased, and struck him in the head *at least* twice with a piece of wood without provocation or notice, and with great violence, fracturing the skull. I would have concluded that the death penalty was an appropriate punishment in that case on any view of the facts.

    Yeoh Lian Chuan Posted on: Oct 26, 2015

  • The death sentence should not be abolished, but should only be used on the worst of crimes, because there will always be crimes so heinous and criminals so unrepentant that the best way to deal with them is to execute them.

    From a moral perspective, using massive amounts of public resources to keep such criminals alive would be immoral – why make everyone work harder just so these people can stay alive?

    Also, is it moral to cause the criminal decades of suffering, locked away in prison? If your answer to that is to make prison life good enough so that criminals don’t experience suffering, then is it moral for law-abiding, tax-paying citizens to fund a good life for a criminal?

    From a utilitarian perspective, executing such a criminal would be the moral choice. Good citizens suffer less by not having to fund his imprisonment with their tax dollars, and the criminal suffers less by not having to go through decades of prison life.

    The only alternative I see is if they somehow turn prison into some form of labour camp where the prisoners are put to work to generate equal or greater economic gain that it costs to imprison them – then I would be in support of keeping them alive.

    Chris Posted on: Oct 21, 2015

  • I believe when Mr Thuraisingam suggests that “If we cannot and do not even begin to understand why we are here and where we came from…, then we cannot claim the power to take it away”, it weakens his case. In the first place, those who support keeping the death penalty are not necessarily claiming divine mandate.

    If we follow his argument, then a logical outworking would be that neither can an individual/society claim to know what is ultimately right or wrong, good or evil? If we are uncertain and confused about the purpose/meaning of life, then who or where do we turn to for an objective basis of morality? Interestingly enough, Mr Thuraisingam began with an assertion that “killing another person is wrong” but fail to explain the basis for his moral claim.

    We all desire a society that rightly tempers justice with mercy. Often, the death penalty has been mistaken to be a blunt, cruel instrument of justice. But before we remove it, one should consider its purpose. Would a life sentence suffice for certain heinous crimes? Is justice upheld when the State has to channel resources to care for unrepentant mass murderers? Why is living behind bars more merciful than a death penalty?

    Edwin Wong Posted on: Oct 16, 2015

  • Agreed with the views of Mr Tan Peng Chin

    a) Considering the safeguards presently in place, the factual circumstances especially in the light of DNA evidence leaves little room for doubt for the facts in any death penalty case.
    b) the calls for abolishment ignores the cries of the victims of the crimes especially the families and the children of such crimes.
    c) it is a double injustice that the cries for abolishment only views it from the case of the perpetrators who unless due to actual documented and verified cases of coercion (which case manslaughter may be considered), the death penalty should be imposed.
    d) the abolishment of such severe judicial penalties will leave even more the cases of possibly worse crimes being committed and the families and children of such crimes being made to suffer more since they are aware that the perpetrators of such crimes remain among them in present day Singapore

    Respectfully

    Wang Posted on: Oct 16, 2015

  • In war, people are killed, soldiers are killed. In peacetime, there is also a war which is the war against crime. The ultimate victory against heinous crimes is to kill the criminal, and in doing so the offence is taken away and evened out and the society will have peace.

    If you let the troublemakers against peace in the society to live, you are not doing justice to the society at large. The criminals will be emboldened, seeing that they can kill, traffick drugs and if they are caught, they will not be punished by death since the law of the society is weak against them.

    Hardcore criminals are the cancer of the society which must be rid of. If you have cancer in the body, will you let it grow or kill it before it affect the whole body? Will you be merciful to the cancer in the body and let it spread?

    To rid the society of its cancerous living cells — that is criminals or offenders who committed heinous crimes, these cancerous living cells of the society must be sentenced from being alive in the society. It is medically right to do so for benefit of all the ‘good’ people.

    Mike Posted on: Oct 15, 2015

  • Our justice system shows more sympathy for criminals than it does victims. It’s time we put the emphasis of our criminal justice system back on protecting the victim rather than the accused. Remember, a person who’s on death row has almost always committed crimes before this. A long line of victims have been waiting for justice. We need justice for current and past victims.

    It provides a deterrent for prisoners already serving a life sentence. What about people already sentenced to life in prison. What’s to stop them from murdering people constantly while in prison? What are they going to do–extend their sentences? Sure, they can take away some prison privileges, but is this enough of a deterrent to stop the killing? What about a person sentenced to life who happens to escape? What’s to stop him from killing anyone who might try to bring him in or curb his crime spree?

    DNA testing and other methods of modern crime scene science can now effectively eliminate almost all uncertainty as to a person’s guilt or innocence. One of the biggest arguments against the death penalty is the possibility of error. Sure, we can never completely eliminate all uncertainty, but nowadays, it’s about as close as you can get. DNA testing is over 99 percent effective. And even if DNA testing and other such scientific methods didn’t exist, the trial and appeals process is so thorough it’s next to impossible to convict an innocent person. Remember, a jury of 12 members must unanimously decide there’s not even a reasonable doubt the person is guilty. The number of innocent people that might somehow be convicted is no greater than the number of innocent victims of the murderers who are set free.

    Joseph Posted on: Oct 14, 2015

  • The death penalty gives closure to the victim’s families who have suffered so much. Some family members of crime victims may take years or decades to recover from the shock and loss of a loved one. Some may never recover. One of the things that helps hasten this recovery is to achieve some kind of closure. Life in prison just means the criminal is still around to haunt the victim. A death sentence brings finality to a horrible chapter in the lives of these family members.

    It creates another form of crime deterrent. Crime would run rampant as never before if there wasn’t some way to deter people from committing the acts. Prison time is an effective deterrent, but with some people, more is needed. Prosecutors should have the option of using a variety of punishments in order to minimize crime.

    Justice is better served. The most fundamental principle of justice is that the punishment should fit the crime. When someone plans and brutally murders another person, doesn’t it make sense that the punishment for the perpetrator also be death?

    Dany Posted on: Oct 14, 2015

  • There is still a place for the death penalty today, if and only if, it is carried out against perpetrators of the most severe and vicious of crimes and only when it coheres with the wider society’s inherent sense of justice.

    And if the death penalty can prevent a murderer from murdering again, that will result in innocent lives saved.

    Besides deterrence and prevention, the death penalty also affords some form of rehabilitation: The fear of death is a psychological burden for most and it is in this finality of the outcome that some form of rehabilitation can take place.

    Examples of people on death row taking the opportunity to repent and make amends are plentiful, even though the criminal cannot be rehabilitated and returned to polite society.

    And this karmic argument also coheres with society’s sometimes wonky sense of justification where the belief is that bad things happen to bad people. And hence, the contrary holds that good things must happen to good people.

    It might not straighten the bad person out, but it keeps the good on the straight and narrow. And there is no evidence for this, because one cannot reason from things that did not happen.

    Belmont Lay Posted on: Oct 14, 2015

  • My position is one that does not support the total abolition of the death penalty. I take the view that the death penalty should continue to be imposed but only for crimes of such gravity that without imposing the death penalty there is no question of justice being served. No one should be allowed to escape the death penalty if they have [1] committed murder or mass murder [2] raped or tortured resulting in the death of their human victim[s] [3] killed a human or some humans under contract killing. This list is not exhaustive of course and can be expanded to include other crimes of similar gravity or severity.

    UN rights experts have recently issued a warning that “executions for drug crimes amount to a violation of international law and are unlawful killings.” And it is heartening to note that Singapore has made some changes to the law concerning the death penalty so that it is no longer mandatory and judges in court trials are now given some leeway to consider whether something less than capital punishment is warranted in the circumstances.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment_by_country
    As of July 2015, of the 196 independent states that are UN members or have UN observer status:
    102 have abolished it for all crimes;
    7 have abolished it, but retain it for exceptional or special circumstances (such as crimes committed in wartime);
    50 retain it, but have not used it for at least 10 years or are under a moratorium;
    37 retain it in both law and practice.

    Tan Peng Chin [TPC] has argued principally on “deterrent” as a factor supporting his position for maintaining the death penalty. For one thing, the death penalty has been a part of Singapore’s criminal justice system for so long; but has it really deterred crimes from being committed? Can the number of people sentenced to death over the last 80 years, say, be indicative of its effectiveness? We can never really tell, whether the number can be considered significant or not. A high figure can be interpreted as a case of the death penalty being ineffective, while a low figure can be seen as lending support to its effectiveness. But what sort of baseline or standard should one use to determine what is high or low? Nothing of substance can emanate from there, I suppose. There are too many issues to consider.

    Elsewhere, in other places, in some US cities, for example, it was found that some cities practicing the death penalty were having high crime rates compared with other US cities with death penalty but having low crime rates.

    This assertion of TPC seems self-defeating: “Many of us who have never been imprisoned before cannot imagine how hard, meaningless and demoralising prison life can be. Even though all of us believe that life is precious, very few appreciate what a living hell life imprisonment can be. Some proponents against the death penalty seem to forget that sooner or later, all of us will die.” If prison life is so bad or so hellish, why should we bother with capital punishment?

    Another assertion of TPC: “I was a volunteer with the Roman Catholic Prison Ministry for many years, and based on my interaction with many prisoners, including hardcore criminals, I have concluded that the only punishment that criminals are afraid of, is the death penalty.”

    The prisoners who expressed such a sentiment had probably not considered the consequences of their actions that could plausibly lead to capital punishment; if they had weighed and considered, then they should have no reason to be talking like that, after the fact.

    Eugene says: “To kill another person is wrong. Why should that be any different when killing takes place in the name of the state?”

    Killing another person is not always wrong, however. How could it be held to be wrong if, say, A killed B in self-defense? B would have killed A if A had not acted in self-defense. In a war there is no question of wrong or right; you kill your foe or your foe will kill you.

    Let’s consider this assertion of Eugene: “We cannot and do not even begin to understand why we are here and where we came from. If we cannot even answer where life comes from, how on earth can we claim the power to take it away?”

    We may not have the answer to why we are here or where we came from, but we have the intelligence in putting in place a justice system for the purpose of providing safety, protection and social order to the community as a whole. And the power to forfeit, say, the life of a person is one that is conferred under the aforesaid justice system, which arose through a collective decision. As the death penalty was the result of a collective decision at institutional level, it can be abolished through a decision exercised similarly.

    Of course, miscarriages of justice have occurred – involving the death penalty or otherwise. There is no way we can restore a person’s life once that person has been put to death. The greatest reason for abolishing the death penalty is the plausibility of committing an error of judgment by holding someone guilty when that person is in fact innocent and then sentencing the person to death. And that’s why type 1 errors are taboo to those administering punishment.

    Richard Woo Posted on: Oct 14, 2015

  • In the same vein or rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s… If you choose to live in Singapore, you cannot choose not to abide by its laws. Stop comparing with other countries. Speak and act for what is relevant in this country you choose to call home.

    Sheldon Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • PRO: “Society is justly ordered when each person receives what is due to him. Crime disturbs this just order, for the criminal takes from people their lives, peace, liberties, and worldly goods in order to give himself undeserved benefits. Deserved punishment protects society morally by restoring this just order, making the wrongdoer pay a price equivalent to the harm he has done. This is retribution, not to be confused with revenge, which is guided by a different motive. In retribution the spur is the virtue of indignation, which answers injury with injury for public good… Retribution is the primary purpose of just punishment as such… [R]ehabilitation, protection, and deterrence have a lesser status in punishment than retribution.”
    The crimes of rape, torture, treason, kidnapping, murder, larceny, and perjury pivot on a moral code that escapes apodictic [indisputably true] proof by expert testimony or otherwise. But communities would plunge into anarchy if they could not act on moral assumptions less certain than that the sun will rise in the east and set in the west. Abolitionists may contend that the death penalty is inherently immoral because governments should never take human life, no matter what the provocation. But that is an article of faith, not of fact. The death penalty honors human dignity by treating the defendant as a free moral actor able to control his own destiny for good or for ill; it does not treat him as an animal with no moral sense

    Zeus Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • In a larger sense, capital punishment is the ultimate warning against all crimes. If the criminal knows that the justice system will not stop at putting him to death, then the system appears more draconian to him. Not all, but many criminals who ride the fence on committing murder ultimately decide to spare the victim’s life.
    A system in place for the purpose of granting justice cannot do so for the surviving victims, unless the murderer himself is put to death.
    The justice system basically attempts to mete out punishment that fits the crime. Severe crimes result in imprisonment. ”Petty larceny” is not treated with the severity that is meted to “grand theft auto,” and the latter, consequently, receives more time in prison. So if severe—but non-lethal—violence toward another is found deserving of life without parole, then why should premeditated homicide be given the very same punishment? This fact might induce a would-be criminal to go ahead and kill the victim he has already mugged and crippled. Why would it matter, after all? His sentence could not get any worse.If murder is the willful deprivation of a victim’s right to life, then the justice system’s willful deprivation of the criminal’s right to the same is—even if overly severe—a punishment which fits the most severe crime that can be committed. Without capital punishment, it could be argued that the justice system makes no provision in response to the crime of murder, and thus provides no justice for the victim.

    Archie tan Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • First a reminder of the basic argument behind retribution and punishment:

    all guilty people deserve to be punished
    only guilty people deserve to be punished
    guilty people deserve to be punished in proportion to the severity of their crime
    This argument states that real justice requires people to suffer for their wrongdoing, and to suffer in a way appropriate for the crime. Each criminal should get what their crime deserves and in the case of a murderer what their crime deserves is death

    Life imprisonment without parole does not protects society adequately. The offender may no longer be a danger to the public, but he remains a danger to prison staff and other inmates. Execution would remove that danger.

    Plea bargaining is used in most countries. It’s the process through which a criminal gets a reduced sentence in exchange for providing help to the police.

    Where the possible sentence is death, the prisoner has the strongest possible incentive to try to get their sentence reduced.

    Boris Lee Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

comments

  • The unavailability of statistics cripples this debate from the outset. For those that support the death penalty, a key proposition is deterrence. However, our state has been opaque in making statistics available to the public. Until there is clear evidence of a link between the death penalty and the corresponding crime rate for offences punishable by death, the deterrence argument will remain an instinctive conjecture. We might be assisted by statistical studies from other jurisdictions where data is readily available. In 2009, a study was published in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology entitled, “Do Executions lower Homicide Rates: The Views of Leading Criminologists?” This study adopted the methodology of surveying leading Criminologists in the USA. The assumption being made is that their views have been conditioned by their own empirical research. The study revealed that overall 94% agreed that there was little empirical evidence to support the deterrent effect of the death penalty.
    I support the abolition of the death penalty purely on moral grounds. The death penalty is a conscious, premeditated form of state killing that is mandated by the law.

    Subramaniam Thirumeni Posted on: Nov 02, 2015

  • Mr Tan’s conclusion that the DP deters is based completely upon his own anecdotal evidence. He provides no empirical evidence to substantiate his claim. However, given the wide-ranging implications of penal policies on real people, such policies must be justified based on concrete criminological data and statistics, rather than on individual personal experience. Especially because the death penalty is the most severe form of punishment, those who seek to impose such a punishment have to justify it. On this front, Mr. Tan has not discharged his burden of proof. In fact, Mr. Tan avoids this responsibility by arguing that even if it is impossible to prove its deterrent effect, the death penalty should still be imposed.

    Even assuming that the death penalty is indeed an effective deterrent, compelling reasons still exist as to why the death penalty should not be imposed.

    What needs to be noted is Mr. Tan is not just suggesting that the offender be punished because of what he has done, but primarily to deter potential criminals. The very crux of deterrence is to punish the offender in order to deter would-be offenders. Essentially, we are punishing the offender to prevent would-be criminals from offending, even though the offender is not personally responsible for crimes committed by these hypothetical criminals. In this respect, we are also punishing the offender for an offence he has not committed, and in which he is “innocent”. But I suspect that Mr. Tan would accept this, since he is willing to run the risk of executing innocent people. In that case, and by extension from the deterrent logic, Mr. Tan must also be prepared to defend and argue that we should consider executing the loved ones of those who commit murder/drug trafficking, since it does not matter that the subject of punishment is not responsible for the crime. Arguably, one might argue that executing the loved ones of the accused might provide an even greater deterrent effect.

    Yet, if we flinch at such a suggestion, it might because we recognize that there are moral limits on punishment.The biggest problem with Mr. Tan’s argument is that he recognizes no such limits on how far we may go to achieve the goal of deterrence. Thus, any such punishment, including the execution of the loved ones of the accused, can be justified on Mr. Tan’s grounds. Perhaps deterrence does not provide an adequate justification after all, unless we are prepared to accept that there are no limits as to how far we may go to achieve the effect of deterrence, and the cost and trade-offs that accompanies it.

    Mr. Tan then goes on to supplement the deterrence argument by arguing that the offender has committed a serious crime and deserves punishment (although as have been noted above, the deterrence argument punishes the offender more so for the crime he is not responsible for). His argument here is confusing. In his opening statement, he makes the argument that “if the maximum punishment (e.g., life imprisonment) is imposed on the murderer, then it should be sufficient punishment to avenge his crime”. But he then concludes that the death penalty should be imposed for such abominable crimes. If deterrence is the deciding factor why the punishment should be death instead of life, then the problems of deterrence in justifying the death penalty that have been highlighted above requires proponents of the death penalty to look for other justifications to support their contention.

    Priscilla Chia Posted on: Nov 02, 2015

  • InIn Kho Jabing’s unique case, the fact that there were disagreements on whether the death sentence was appropriate, not just from ordinary citizens like myself, or law students, or even lawyers, but experienced judges from the appealate court and also the high court should make us examine more carefully the meaning of the term ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. Is it reasonable doubt when it is 33.33%? Some may say yes, some may say no.

    However, this should show that there certainly needs more debate on the application of our laws to understand them, to improve them. Also more deliberations need to be made upon the impact the death penalty has on our community, on families from both sides.

    Mr. Tan asks a few questions in conclusion. I will provide responses to each of them below.

    1) Do most people agree that Singapore is a much safer society than many other similar countries?

    Yes but it would be a mistake to think that it is the sole result of laws like the death penalty.

    2) What is it that makes Singapore a much safer country and society?

    It is more so on the dedication of the public service who serve with the best of their abilities within the functions that the law and public institutions provide. If the death penalty or any other law is replaced, I do not think the dedication of our men and women of the civil service would waver the slightest, therefore it would not diminish the commitment or responsibility of the judiciary or the home team to keep crime at bay.

    3) If Singapore did not have perceived “draconian” measures against drug trafficking, would we end up having a much more serious drug problem?

    Again it is not just the draconian laws which make our society safer from drugs and other crimes which have strong links to social and economic factors. It is simplistic and non-factual to think that the authorities’ efforts in the ongoing protection against drug crimes do not involve connecting or strengthening the communities, to be more resilient from such social ills. Just searching through the official website of the Singapore Police Force on anti-drug efforts and campaigns will confirm this.

    Historically the death penalty is a remnant of a bygone era. An era where the sophistication of research in areas of crime, law, justice, social issues and etcetera, was not available. Where compassion needed to be traded in for the sake of justice.

    Singapore is currently perfectly poised to balance this by expanding our capacity for compassion. In this era, where Singapore seeks to benefit from being a knowledge-based economy which values intellectual capability more than ever before, we certainly have the capacity to seek to replace blunt punishments like the death penalty with sharper, more sensitive ones which take into account their holistic effects within the community and to all parties involved.

    Additionally with the continued dedication of the men and women within our public service, I believe that we can choose life just as Mr Eugene Thuraisingam has proclaimed, to better uphold justice and express compassion for both the individual and society. Is a just society which is also compassionate not for the benefit of all, for both present and for future generations?

    Soe Min Than Posted on: Oct 30, 2015

  • In defense of Kho Jabing’s unique case, the fact that there were disagreements on whether the death sentence was appropriate, not just from ordinary citizens like myself, or law students, or even lawyers, but experienced judge. from the appealate court and also the high court should make us examine the meaning of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. Is it reasonable doubt when it is 33.33%? Some may say yes, some may say no.

    However, there certainly needs more diliberations on the impact the death penalty has on our community, on families from both sides.

    Mr. Tan asks the followi

    Soe Min Than Posted on: Oct 30, 2015

  • Section 300(c) of the Penal Code prescribes that an act is murder “if it is done with the intention of causing bodily injury to any person, and the bodily injury intended to be inflicted is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death”.

    With or without such a definition written down in the Penal Code, the death penalty is in fact the most premeditated form of murder in the world in which each and every step, from the passing of the sentence to the execution itself, is conducted with the intention to end a human life. The only thing that stops many from perceiving it as murder, is the fact that it is carried out with the approval and sponsorship of the state, and in the name of justice. On top of that, there seems to be an automatic acceptance that the existence of a retributive justice system is the only way a society can work to maintain or uphold justice of any kind. Perhaps it is time that we explore the possibility of judicial reform, and make a gradual transformation to having a justice system that is based on the principles of restorative justice.

    I do not agree with the act of killing any criminals, because it is a short cut method of “justice” that has not proven to be a deterrent against crimes, nor does it actually work to solve any social issues leading to the occurrence of crimes. When a crime happens, the focus is often placed on the crime itself rather than factors leading to the crime (e.g., existence of adversity of any kind) which is certainly myopic. There is no place for the death penalty in this day and age, and I strongly believe that it should be abolished.

    Rachel Zeng Posted on: Oct 21, 2015

  • Mr Tan’s opening statement is awful and fraught with major undefendable assumptions and most worryingly for a secular state, repeatedly references religion as a moral benchmark for our secular society.

    Firstly, he takes prisoners’ coping mechanism of caning (braggadocio) at total face value and assumes that it therefore is not a deterrent at all. Come on, it obviously isn’t the case. After being restrained and whipped like an animal, men who are socially conditioned not to display weakness are trying to salvage what little pride they can. To a sensible person, it shouldn’t mean that it automatically makes them completely unafraid of it.

    Secondly, without meaningful substantiation, he repeatedly makes the case that deterrence WILL prevent crime. Firstly, he assumes that Singapore’s low crime rate is automatically due to capital punishment without any causal evidence. He also ignores evidence that everywhere else, deterrent justice systems are less successful in preventing repeat offenses compared to rehabilitation focused systems.

    He also assumes revenge is the best way to make victims feel better (not true).

    Last of all, he assumes the only alternative is life imprisonment

    Bryan Gan Posted on: Oct 14, 2015

  • Mr Thuraisingam makes the better argument here by raising the fact that there is no conclusive evidence that the death penalty has any unique efficacy re: deterrence. Mr Tan strongly believes in the deterrent power of the death penalty, but his support draws almost entirely from anecdotal experience.

    Given the gravity of the situation, I believe that the burden of proof should lie on death penalty advocates to prove that the death penalty is more efficacious than alternative punishments (such as caning and life imprisonment) in order to justify its existence. Mr Thuraisingam rightly points out that this evidence needs to be “clear or reliable” – Mr Tan’s anecdotes are neither, and by failing to meet the standard, vindicates Mr Thuraisingam’s point.

    Nigel Na Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • I am reminded of the expression, “There but for the grace of god go I”. Everyone makes mistakes in their lives, sometimes very serious mistakes, sometimes committed in the heat of the moment or due to other circumstances, but no-one is beyond reform and rehabilitation. The playing field is not level at birth, and some of us commit a foul whilst engaging in the game of life, for which we deserve to get sent off the playing field to the side line while we reflect on our actions and make improvements. But it is not a reason to turn out the lights. Even the referee may make an error in calling the foul and only later utilising new scientific advancements does that error become apparent. To argue for abolishing the death penalty is not an argument that there should be no punishment. Incarceration and removal from society, potentially for a lengthy period, is a strong and appropriate punishment. Imprisonment and the loss of privacy, liberty and opportunity, having to watch as the world goes by without you, is a powerful disincentive to commit crime. It serves the purpose of retribution for the victim. There are studies which show that adding the death penalty to the punishment regime does not add to crime deterrence. Indeed we live in a relatively safe environment, and long may it remain so, but there are several possible explanations for this, and no certainty that it is due to the presence of the death penalty. It is time for society to show its humanity.

    Bill Bowman Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • I believe in the equal value of every human life, and that means a person is no less valuable in existing just because they committed a crime, no matter how grievous it might be. Every person is entitled to the opportunity to receive forgiveness from those whom he or she has hurt or brought pain to, as well as the chance to mend his or her ways — be it in spending the rest of his/her life in prison or part of it inside and part outside.

    Many a prison volunteer can attest to countless stories of prisoners on death row who have experienced true repentance and were at peace with themselves before being sent to the gallows. The lives of these men and women could have been saved and spent more fruitfully, contributing to society.

    Indeed it can be argued they may still be dangerous, so it may be more worthwhile to monitor their progress, and should they really repeat their crimes, lock them away for the rest of their lives — no matter what happens, snuffing out a life makes no sense and has little proven deterrent effect against serious crime either.

    Jeanette Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • Call me the naive idealist but my reasons for wanting the death penalty abolished are simple.

    They presuppose a fundamental humanistic instinct inherent in all human beings, which is the valuing of human life. Human life has worth and dignity, be that of the aristocrat or the pauper, the bourgeoisie or the proletariat and as such the taking away of human life is antithetical to eudaimonia, or human flourishing. This includes the murder of an apparent criminal by the judiciary.

    Punitive justice to me is not justice in the truest sense of the word as two wrongs in this case will not make a right. It only renders shameless the legal system and its enforcers.

    Benjamin Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • I have not seen any research on the effect of of the death penalty and crime rates in Singapore.

    The late Father G Arotcarena who spent many years administering to prisoners and looking after the welfare of ex offenders had this to say about death row inmates and the death penalty:

    “I can testify that, in most of these men, something human remained which only needed to be revived and maintained. The death penalty is nothing but an act of vengeance. It has nothing to do with justice. It lowers the society that imposes it, bringing it to the level of the criminals against whom it uses the sentence, supposedly to protect itself. As Confucius said: “He who gives way to vengeance digs two graves: one for his enemy and the other for himself.” The Singapore government would do itself proud if it abolished the death penalty. Unfortunately, it has not reached that point yet.” I am optimistic that the death penalty will be abolished one day.

    Teo Soh Lung Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • I support the abolition of the death penalty in Singapore because the benefits to society are far outweighed by the associated risks.

    As Mr. Tan indicates, the main benefit of the death penalty is its deterrent potential. But logically, the death penalty only deters those who do not fear the next harshest punishment. In Singapore, it would deter only those criminals who do not fear life in prison, but who fear an earlier death. Surely this cannot be all (or even most) criminals?

    Against this, we must set the real risk of executing an undeserving person, which has been dealt with in detail by previous commentators.

    Mr Tan believes it is more likely for a person to be killed on the roads than for an innocent person to be hanged. That is not the comparison we should make. We should instead ask: Can we, in good conscience, trade the risk of executing undeserving human beings for the narrow slice of deterrence the death penalty adds to our justice system? My personal answer is no.

    Qabir Sandhu Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • “I understand there are usually about two dozen witnesses to these executions and I sometimes wonder about those who will be at mine, unknown, faceless men rooting for me to die, happy to see me breathe my last breath. I wonder about men who do not know me, have never met me, never broken bread with me and who know nothing about what’s in my heart, who nonetheless are anxious, eager, happy to see me die.
    It does not bother me, but I wonder if it will ever bother any of those men (and yes, it’s almost always men, with their lust for blood; women seldom indulge in this), perhaps in their sunset years when they reflect back on their youth and wonder about their imperatives. I hope, for their sakes, that one day they will be ashamed — or at least disappointed — with their naked blood lust and will determine to henceforth set a better example for those following behind them.” -William Van Poyck, executed June 12, 2013 in the US

    By directly participating in the execution process, prison workers have to face the moral implications of knowingly participating in the act of killing another human being. At the same time, those responsible for carrying out the execution do not have the benefit of having heard all evidence presented at the trial. Many times the doubt of the condemned person’s guilt is a heavy burden on the consciences of those that have to perform the execution.

    “If you let the judge be the executioner, I think he would give a second thought about sending somebody to be executed.” -Jerry Givens, retired Executioner, Virginia Department of Corrections.
    “There is nothing commonplace about walking a healthy young man to a room, strapping him into a chair, and coldly, methodically killing him.” -Donald Cabana, former Warden, Mississippi State Penitentiary.

    It is a false assumption to think that in the body’s mode of “flight or fight”, when adrenaline hormones are being pumped throughout the body for aggressive, vigorous action, that we are able to pause and think about our fate calmly, about what constitutes manslaughter, grievous hurt, or maybe to check with a lawyer. Plea bargaining in drugs cases here assumes that all couriers, lowest level members in syndicates know enough for “substantively assisting in CNB’s operations to disrupt drug trafficking activities within or outside of Singapore”.

    On the definitions of retribution and revenge, it may be defined differently depending on where the terms are used. However if you look at psychological studies, revenge is called the psychology of retribution. In studies related to perceptions of justice, feelings of revenge have been specifically addressed. They reveal what is called the “revenge paradox” and that “rather than providing closure, [taking our revenge] does the opposite: It keeps the wound open and fresh”.
    Some scientists believe that revenge is a primitive instinct that has been left over from the days of our early ancestors during their struggle for survival as tribes. Additionally that the human race later developed, a forgiveness instinct “that enables people to suppress the desire for revenge and signal their willingness to continue on, even though someone has harmed their interests, assuming the person will refrain from doing so again in the future” (Michael McCullough, PhD, Professor of Psychology at the University of Miami).

    In the April 2011 issue of the European Journal of Social Psychology a study showed that “If the message (the offender’s recognizing of his wrongdoing) is not delivered, it cannot re-establish justice” (Mario Gollwitzer, psychological scientist). This suggests that it is not the form of punishment but the effect of a punishment producing guilt for the offender, as being more valuable to victims of wrongdoing. Therefore capital punishment need not be the only ‘worthy’ punishment for the most violent/serious crimes in relating to the victim’s loved ones, or the victim’s interest. It is another false assumption to think that the victim would want another’s life to be taken away from another family, from another loved one.

    All of the above suggest that justice can be better achieved if the punishment manages to balance the revenge instinct (knowledge of wrongdoer’s guilt) with the forgiveness instinct (on condition that the wrongdoer has reformed). The simplest of generalisations is to kill the worst wrongdoers of our time, and those who remain living will be safe, better for it. However can we still afford such simplistic thinking by ignoring the rigorous but worthy exercise of ethics and ethical standards? Can we still truly believe that a person who ends up on death row is the only one that suffers? What about the family and loved ones, such as children? What is the real social impact of killing prisoners? The executed can no longer commit future wrongdoing to society just as surely as the murder victim can no longer contribute to society. However what is the real cost of giving death to a prisoner, which also renders him/her no longer able to contribute, versus life imprisonment, which still allows some contribution to society (at the very minimum to their families, or prison community)?

    The state takes on the responsibility, and its civil servants carry out the deed, from arrest, prosecution, judgement to execution. Moreover, it is for the sake of the rest of us, for our safety, for society. The state should rightly lay out the real costs of capital punishment. Comprehensive studies should focus on the effects, to the families of victims lost to violent crime, to families of those executed, to health of death row prison staff, to rate of violent crime, to rate of drug offenses, to mental state of death row prisoners in last days leading up to time of execution and to other relevant social factors. The question of why the death penalty did not deter those who committed the crime also needs to be explicitly addressed. An extensive review of other alternative policies practiced in other states and to explicitly state which ones may/ may not be suitable here and why, is also needed.

    Without such information to review before deciding to take a human life seems grossly unethical. All this would have been impossible undertakings 50 years ago during the time of our earlier generation of pioneering leaders but very manageable now in this modern age of research and shared global knowledge systems. Such research and knowledge would also be greatly valued regardless of the findings and Singapore may be better poised and also in urgent need for such comprehensive studies than any other nation due to its population density and limited land mass.

    Soe Min Than Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • It is inhuman to kill another person whatever the reason is. We must not be murderers ourselves.

    I disagree that the reason of death penalty is to deter offender. Most likely he’ll be in jail under the highest security.

    I disagree that the reason of death penalty is to deter others doing heinous crimes. Why must someone be punished to death, to deter something that may or may not be done in the future, moreover by others?

    Since Mr Tan Peng Chin mentioned the Roman Catholic, it forbids killing another person. It’s stated in the Ten Commandments.

    Handaya Rusli Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • I’m against the death penalty due to how it has falsely killed so many people worldwide due to racial (and other) bias. Studies also suggest that it takes more money to send someone to hang than it does to keep them imprisoned forever. The death penalty is also proven to not be a deterrent for crime so much that it is an easy way out for criminals who’d rather die than be imprisoned indefinitely. Also it’s unfair in other ways: sending someone who killed one person to hang vs the same punishment for someone who killed fifteen. They say someone forfeits their right to life when they kill but if they killed fifteen times we can’t kill them fifteen times over, can we? Also it’s plain cruel and medieval to kill people for drug trafficking.

    Drima Chakraborty Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • 1. Simply read Mhd Kadar v PP [2011] SGCA 32 and any fantasies about 200% certainty will be immediately dispelled. What emerges is shocking, to say the least.

    2. If prison life is “hard, meaningless and demoralising”, surely life imprisonment is an effective deterrent.

    3. Who are we really punishing by executing people? I submit it is their family members who effectively, have to endure their relative being legally killed by the State. Why should they be punished instead of the offender having to spend a lifetime reflecting on his crime, apart from society?

    4. Mr Tan touches only on violent crime. What about death penalty for drug mules? His eye for an eye rationale holds no sway here.

    5. Most developed countries have abolished the death penalty. Why?

    Has the lack of executions for the past 50 years resulted in increased crime rates in places like Scandanavia, which enjoys comparable crime rates with Singapore? No.

    It does not effectively deter non-premeditated crime.

    Jared Dass Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • There is no simply convincing evidence that harsher penalties deter crime. In 2012 by a committee of the American National Academy of Sciences National Review Council reviewed 34 years of research on the death penalty and homicide in the US and concluded that “it is impossible to draw credible findings about the effect of the death penalty on homicide”. With – literally – life and death at stake, it is heinously irresponsible and unethical to continue killing human beings on such a shaky foundation.

    Jolene Tan Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • Mr Tan Peng Chin argued that the courts would never impose the death penalty upon someone unless they were 200% sure of his/her guilt. How does he reconcile this 200% confidence with cases where there are dissenting judgements? As Mr Thuraisingam pointed out, there was a dissenting judge in Took Leng How’s case – yet he was executed anyway. As I write this Sarawakian Kho Jabing is sitting on death row even though two out of the five judges on the Court of Appeal bench felt he should not be sentenced to death. Unanimous decisions are not required in Singapore for the death sentence to be imposed or upheld – how is this the overwhelming confidence that Mr Tan described?

    Kirsten Han Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • Both Kho Jabing and Khaddar case shows the resilience and impartiality of the court system in Singapore for the severity of imposing the death penalty.
    The facts of the cases are clear in which the perpetrators are identified.
    In regards to the mens rear argument by critics, it would be better as a considered judgement by the panel rather than the chorus of anti death penalty activists.
    Furthermore, for heinous crimes against children or even serial murderers, it is blatant injustice for the victims or families of such victims to know that such perpetrators remain among them, yet at times, the dismissive arguments and ridicule heaped by such activists are beyond the pale.

    Wang Posted on: Nov 02, 2015

  • Although I am in agreement with TPC’s argument that the death penalty should continue to be imposed, but only “for the very heinous crimes or crimes that cause tremendous harm to society so that criminals or potential criminals will be deterred from committing such crimes” I would like to say that the questions raised by him in the concluding part of his post have little or no bearing in serving as arguments for his stance against the motion for the debate.

    1) Do most people agree that Singapore is a much safer society than many other similar countries?

    Singapore may be a safer society compared with some other countries but the issue of safety may have nothing to do with the fact that the death penalty is a feature of its laws.

    2) If Singapore did not have perceived “draconian” measures against drug trafficking, would we end up having a much more serious drug problem?

    How can we ever provide a meaningful answer without relevant statistics or from past experience, from both sides of the line?

    Countries without the death penalty – do they have higher cases of drug trafficking compared with Singapore? Even if the answer is Yes, other factors, besides the death penalty, may be involved. If the answer is No, does it support the argument that the death penalty is a reason for the lower incidence of drug trafficking? The answer is a resounding NO, as there may be a diversity of factors or reasons.

    Regrettably, both debaters seem to have disregarded the comments posted in the comments section. Nothing specific was raised about pointers made by observers to the debate.

    Richard Woo Posted on: Nov 01, 2015

  • Eugene: I choose life… because the sanctity of life is not something we can take upon ourselves to violate.

    Eugene’s assertion “the sanctity of life is not something we can take upon ourselves to violate” leaves the avenue open for further discussion or debate.

    What does he mean by “sanctity of life”? Is he talking of human life or any kind of life? OK, let’s assume he is referring to human life – and my question is: What about non-human life, say, the cow, the pig, the chicken, etc? And why should only human life be considered sanctimonious, if the term “sanctity” cannot and should not apply to non-human life? Is Eugene connected to a certain religiosity and takes the view that people are made in God’s image and that human life has an inherently sacred attribute that should be protected and respected at all times? If he thinks that sanctity is applicable to human life only, is such thinking based on his religious upbringing? What justification can he provide for thinking that non-human life, unlike human life, is not sanctimonious?

    In his opening statement Eugene has made the claim that it is wrong to kill another person but here he is clearly offering the justification that it is not wrong for a policeman shooting and killing an armed criminal intent on committing mass murder. He says: “…with a known criminal armed with an automatic rifle, there is no doubt that he will commit mass murder if he is not stopped. This — the certainty of harm that will be caused — is the fundamental difference between the state condoning the killing of a person facing the death penalty and the policeman killing an armed criminal with the intention to commit mass murder.”

    Here, Eugene seems to have taken the position that there is no doubt that the armed criminal would kill if he is not killed first; prevention [or deterrence?] is better than cure, as most of us might agree. But how can he justify his certainty that the criminal in question would commit mass murder if left alone? Of course, one has to factor in all relevant factors, to justify one’s actions or thoughts. Can we argue there is a chance that the armed criminal may not commit mass murder if left alone? Appearances alone can be deceptive. However, we can never tell, for sure. So, we may still argue that killing the criminal in the circumstances may be justified, to obviate the risks of him killing other people. If Eugene accepts that it is not wrong in the policeman killing the criminal, in the scenario we have described, then Eugene has to admit that it is not wrong to kill another person – where there is ethical or legal justification for doing so; hence he should now admit that he has made an error of judgment in saying in his opening statement that it is wrong to kill another person.

    Eugene’s concluding comment: “In conclusion, I highlight that the rights and wrongs of the death penalty have been debated over many decades and there is still no clear universal stance taken on it. Perhaps there will never be a universal stance taken, and if so, in the face of such moral dilemma, I say we should always choose life.”

    It is clear: Eugene may choose life while others may prefer death over life.

    Regrettably, both debaters seem to have disregarded the comments posted in the comments section. Nothing specific was raised about pointers made by observers to the debate.

    Richard Woo Posted on: Nov 01, 2015

  • In the case of Kho Jabing which Ms Kirsten Han refers to in her comments in favour of abolishing the death penalty, it was not in doubt that Jabing attempted to rob the deceased, and struck him in the head *at least* twice with a piece of wood without provocation or notice, and with great violence, fracturing the skull. I would have concluded that the death penalty was an appropriate punishment in that case on any view of the facts.

    Yeoh Lian Chuan Posted on: Oct 26, 2015

  • The death sentence should not be abolished, but should only be used on the worst of crimes, because there will always be crimes so heinous and criminals so unrepentant that the best way to deal with them is to execute them.

    From a moral perspective, using massive amounts of public resources to keep such criminals alive would be immoral – why make everyone work harder just so these people can stay alive?

    Also, is it moral to cause the criminal decades of suffering, locked away in prison? If your answer to that is to make prison life good enough so that criminals don’t experience suffering, then is it moral for law-abiding, tax-paying citizens to fund a good life for a criminal?

    From a utilitarian perspective, executing such a criminal would be the moral choice. Good citizens suffer less by not having to fund his imprisonment with their tax dollars, and the criminal suffers less by not having to go through decades of prison life.

    The only alternative I see is if they somehow turn prison into some form of labour camp where the prisoners are put to work to generate equal or greater economic gain that it costs to imprison them – then I would be in support of keeping them alive.

    Chris Posted on: Oct 21, 2015

  • I believe when Mr Thuraisingam suggests that “If we cannot and do not even begin to understand why we are here and where we came from…, then we cannot claim the power to take it away”, it weakens his case. In the first place, those who support keeping the death penalty are not necessarily claiming divine mandate.

    If we follow his argument, then a logical outworking would be that neither can an individual/society claim to know what is ultimately right or wrong, good or evil? If we are uncertain and confused about the purpose/meaning of life, then who or where do we turn to for an objective basis of morality? Interestingly enough, Mr Thuraisingam began with an assertion that “killing another person is wrong” but fail to explain the basis for his moral claim.

    We all desire a society that rightly tempers justice with mercy. Often, the death penalty has been mistaken to be a blunt, cruel instrument of justice. But before we remove it, one should consider its purpose. Would a life sentence suffice for certain heinous crimes? Is justice upheld when the State has to channel resources to care for unrepentant mass murderers? Why is living behind bars more merciful than a death penalty?

    Edwin Wong Posted on: Oct 16, 2015

  • Agreed with the views of Mr Tan Peng Chin

    a) Considering the safeguards presently in place, the factual circumstances especially in the light of DNA evidence leaves little room for doubt for the facts in any death penalty case.
    b) the calls for abolishment ignores the cries of the victims of the crimes especially the families and the children of such crimes.
    c) it is a double injustice that the cries for abolishment only views it from the case of the perpetrators who unless due to actual documented and verified cases of coercion (which case manslaughter may be considered), the death penalty should be imposed.
    d) the abolishment of such severe judicial penalties will leave even more the cases of possibly worse crimes being committed and the families and children of such crimes being made to suffer more since they are aware that the perpetrators of such crimes remain among them in present day Singapore

    Respectfully

    Wang Posted on: Oct 16, 2015

  • In war, people are killed, soldiers are killed. In peacetime, there is also a war which is the war against crime. The ultimate victory against heinous crimes is to kill the criminal, and in doing so the offence is taken away and evened out and the society will have peace.

    If you let the troublemakers against peace in the society to live, you are not doing justice to the society at large. The criminals will be emboldened, seeing that they can kill, traffick drugs and if they are caught, they will not be punished by death since the law of the society is weak against them.

    Hardcore criminals are the cancer of the society which must be rid of. If you have cancer in the body, will you let it grow or kill it before it affect the whole body? Will you be merciful to the cancer in the body and let it spread?

    To rid the society of its cancerous living cells — that is criminals or offenders who committed heinous crimes, these cancerous living cells of the society must be sentenced from being alive in the society. It is medically right to do so for benefit of all the ‘good’ people.

    Mike Posted on: Oct 15, 2015

  • Our justice system shows more sympathy for criminals than it does victims. It’s time we put the emphasis of our criminal justice system back on protecting the victim rather than the accused. Remember, a person who’s on death row has almost always committed crimes before this. A long line of victims have been waiting for justice. We need justice for current and past victims.

    It provides a deterrent for prisoners already serving a life sentence. What about people already sentenced to life in prison. What’s to stop them from murdering people constantly while in prison? What are they going to do–extend their sentences? Sure, they can take away some prison privileges, but is this enough of a deterrent to stop the killing? What about a person sentenced to life who happens to escape? What’s to stop him from killing anyone who might try to bring him in or curb his crime spree?

    DNA testing and other methods of modern crime scene science can now effectively eliminate almost all uncertainty as to a person’s guilt or innocence. One of the biggest arguments against the death penalty is the possibility of error. Sure, we can never completely eliminate all uncertainty, but nowadays, it’s about as close as you can get. DNA testing is over 99 percent effective. And even if DNA testing and other such scientific methods didn’t exist, the trial and appeals process is so thorough it’s next to impossible to convict an innocent person. Remember, a jury of 12 members must unanimously decide there’s not even a reasonable doubt the person is guilty. The number of innocent people that might somehow be convicted is no greater than the number of innocent victims of the murderers who are set free.

    Joseph Posted on: Oct 14, 2015

  • The death penalty gives closure to the victim’s families who have suffered so much. Some family members of crime victims may take years or decades to recover from the shock and loss of a loved one. Some may never recover. One of the things that helps hasten this recovery is to achieve some kind of closure. Life in prison just means the criminal is still around to haunt the victim. A death sentence brings finality to a horrible chapter in the lives of these family members.

    It creates another form of crime deterrent. Crime would run rampant as never before if there wasn’t some way to deter people from committing the acts. Prison time is an effective deterrent, but with some people, more is needed. Prosecutors should have the option of using a variety of punishments in order to minimize crime.

    Justice is better served. The most fundamental principle of justice is that the punishment should fit the crime. When someone plans and brutally murders another person, doesn’t it make sense that the punishment for the perpetrator also be death?

    Dany Posted on: Oct 14, 2015

  • There is still a place for the death penalty today, if and only if, it is carried out against perpetrators of the most severe and vicious of crimes and only when it coheres with the wider society’s inherent sense of justice.

    And if the death penalty can prevent a murderer from murdering again, that will result in innocent lives saved.

    Besides deterrence and prevention, the death penalty also affords some form of rehabilitation: The fear of death is a psychological burden for most and it is in this finality of the outcome that some form of rehabilitation can take place.

    Examples of people on death row taking the opportunity to repent and make amends are plentiful, even though the criminal cannot be rehabilitated and returned to polite society.

    And this karmic argument also coheres with society’s sometimes wonky sense of justification where the belief is that bad things happen to bad people. And hence, the contrary holds that good things must happen to good people.

    It might not straighten the bad person out, but it keeps the good on the straight and narrow. And there is no evidence for this, because one cannot reason from things that did not happen.

    Belmont Lay Posted on: Oct 14, 2015

  • My position is one that does not support the total abolition of the death penalty. I take the view that the death penalty should continue to be imposed but only for crimes of such gravity that without imposing the death penalty there is no question of justice being served. No one should be allowed to escape the death penalty if they have [1] committed murder or mass murder [2] raped or tortured resulting in the death of their human victim[s] [3] killed a human or some humans under contract killing. This list is not exhaustive of course and can be expanded to include other crimes of similar gravity or severity.

    UN rights experts have recently issued a warning that “executions for drug crimes amount to a violation of international law and are unlawful killings.” And it is heartening to note that Singapore has made some changes to the law concerning the death penalty so that it is no longer mandatory and judges in court trials are now given some leeway to consider whether something less than capital punishment is warranted in the circumstances.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment_by_country
    As of July 2015, of the 196 independent states that are UN members or have UN observer status:
    102 have abolished it for all crimes;
    7 have abolished it, but retain it for exceptional or special circumstances (such as crimes committed in wartime);
    50 retain it, but have not used it for at least 10 years or are under a moratorium;
    37 retain it in both law and practice.

    Tan Peng Chin [TPC] has argued principally on “deterrent” as a factor supporting his position for maintaining the death penalty. For one thing, the death penalty has been a part of Singapore’s criminal justice system for so long; but has it really deterred crimes from being committed? Can the number of people sentenced to death over the last 80 years, say, be indicative of its effectiveness? We can never really tell, whether the number can be considered significant or not. A high figure can be interpreted as a case of the death penalty being ineffective, while a low figure can be seen as lending support to its effectiveness. But what sort of baseline or standard should one use to determine what is high or low? Nothing of substance can emanate from there, I suppose. There are too many issues to consider.

    Elsewhere, in other places, in some US cities, for example, it was found that some cities practicing the death penalty were having high crime rates compared with other US cities with death penalty but having low crime rates.

    This assertion of TPC seems self-defeating: “Many of us who have never been imprisoned before cannot imagine how hard, meaningless and demoralising prison life can be. Even though all of us believe that life is precious, very few appreciate what a living hell life imprisonment can be. Some proponents against the death penalty seem to forget that sooner or later, all of us will die.” If prison life is so bad or so hellish, why should we bother with capital punishment?

    Another assertion of TPC: “I was a volunteer with the Roman Catholic Prison Ministry for many years, and based on my interaction with many prisoners, including hardcore criminals, I have concluded that the only punishment that criminals are afraid of, is the death penalty.”

    The prisoners who expressed such a sentiment had probably not considered the consequences of their actions that could plausibly lead to capital punishment; if they had weighed and considered, then they should have no reason to be talking like that, after the fact.

    Eugene says: “To kill another person is wrong. Why should that be any different when killing takes place in the name of the state?”

    Killing another person is not always wrong, however. How could it be held to be wrong if, say, A killed B in self-defense? B would have killed A if A had not acted in self-defense. In a war there is no question of wrong or right; you kill your foe or your foe will kill you.

    Let’s consider this assertion of Eugene: “We cannot and do not even begin to understand why we are here and where we came from. If we cannot even answer where life comes from, how on earth can we claim the power to take it away?”

    We may not have the answer to why we are here or where we came from, but we have the intelligence in putting in place a justice system for the purpose of providing safety, protection and social order to the community as a whole. And the power to forfeit, say, the life of a person is one that is conferred under the aforesaid justice system, which arose through a collective decision. As the death penalty was the result of a collective decision at institutional level, it can be abolished through a decision exercised similarly.

    Of course, miscarriages of justice have occurred – involving the death penalty or otherwise. There is no way we can restore a person’s life once that person has been put to death. The greatest reason for abolishing the death penalty is the plausibility of committing an error of judgment by holding someone guilty when that person is in fact innocent and then sentencing the person to death. And that’s why type 1 errors are taboo to those administering punishment.

    Richard Woo Posted on: Oct 14, 2015

  • In the same vein or rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s… If you choose to live in Singapore, you cannot choose not to abide by its laws. Stop comparing with other countries. Speak and act for what is relevant in this country you choose to call home.

    Sheldon Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • PRO: “Society is justly ordered when each person receives what is due to him. Crime disturbs this just order, for the criminal takes from people their lives, peace, liberties, and worldly goods in order to give himself undeserved benefits. Deserved punishment protects society morally by restoring this just order, making the wrongdoer pay a price equivalent to the harm he has done. This is retribution, not to be confused with revenge, which is guided by a different motive. In retribution the spur is the virtue of indignation, which answers injury with injury for public good… Retribution is the primary purpose of just punishment as such… [R]ehabilitation, protection, and deterrence have a lesser status in punishment than retribution.”
    The crimes of rape, torture, treason, kidnapping, murder, larceny, and perjury pivot on a moral code that escapes apodictic [indisputably true] proof by expert testimony or otherwise. But communities would plunge into anarchy if they could not act on moral assumptions less certain than that the sun will rise in the east and set in the west. Abolitionists may contend that the death penalty is inherently immoral because governments should never take human life, no matter what the provocation. But that is an article of faith, not of fact. The death penalty honors human dignity by treating the defendant as a free moral actor able to control his own destiny for good or for ill; it does not treat him as an animal with no moral sense

    Zeus Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • In a larger sense, capital punishment is the ultimate warning against all crimes. If the criminal knows that the justice system will not stop at putting him to death, then the system appears more draconian to him. Not all, but many criminals who ride the fence on committing murder ultimately decide to spare the victim’s life.
    A system in place for the purpose of granting justice cannot do so for the surviving victims, unless the murderer himself is put to death.
    The justice system basically attempts to mete out punishment that fits the crime. Severe crimes result in imprisonment. ”Petty larceny” is not treated with the severity that is meted to “grand theft auto,” and the latter, consequently, receives more time in prison. So if severe—but non-lethal—violence toward another is found deserving of life without parole, then why should premeditated homicide be given the very same punishment? This fact might induce a would-be criminal to go ahead and kill the victim he has already mugged and crippled. Why would it matter, after all? His sentence could not get any worse.If murder is the willful deprivation of a victim’s right to life, then the justice system’s willful deprivation of the criminal’s right to the same is—even if overly severe—a punishment which fits the most severe crime that can be committed. Without capital punishment, it could be argued that the justice system makes no provision in response to the crime of murder, and thus provides no justice for the victim.

    Archie tan Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • First a reminder of the basic argument behind retribution and punishment:

    all guilty people deserve to be punished
    only guilty people deserve to be punished
    guilty people deserve to be punished in proportion to the severity of their crime
    This argument states that real justice requires people to suffer for their wrongdoing, and to suffer in a way appropriate for the crime. Each criminal should get what their crime deserves and in the case of a murderer what their crime deserves is death

    Life imprisonment without parole does not protects society adequately. The offender may no longer be a danger to the public, but he remains a danger to prison staff and other inmates. Execution would remove that danger.

    Plea bargaining is used in most countries. It’s the process through which a criminal gets a reduced sentence in exchange for providing help to the police.

    Where the possible sentence is death, the prisoner has the strongest possible incentive to try to get their sentence reduced.

    Boris Lee Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

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Mr Eugene Thuraisingam

Yes

19th October 2015

Mr Tan makes three arguments in support of the death penalty. Firstly, it is that Singapore’s criminal justice system is such that it is impossible to for innocent persons be wrongly convicted. Secondly, that the death penalty is not cruel or inhumane, because the cruelty of the death penalty is matched by the cruelty the criminals themselves imposed on their victims. Thirdly, that the death penalty is justified because it is the only punishment that criminals are afraid of, and will accordingly advance the interests of general and specific deterrence.

I will respond to each of these arguments in turn. In response to Mr Tan’s first argument as mentioned above, let me set out various aspects of Singapore’s criminal justice system that give rise to a risk of miscarriage of justice:

1) the lack of legal counsel during the taking of the accused persons’ long and cautioned statements by the police (i.e., statements describing the event for which the person is being investigated). Oftentimes the accused persons are uneducated and not fluent in English, which may give rise to inaccuracies of translations and statement-taking;

2) the fact that an accused facing a charge under the Misuse of Drugs Act generally bears the burden of proving his innocence;

3) the fact that the burden is difficult to discharge because an accused needs to prove the negative fact of lack of knowledge of drugs in his possession, and such lack of knowledge is often not supportable by objective admissible evidence.

Furthermore, Mr Tan’s first argument above wrongly assumes that, because the Prosecutor and the Courts would make sure that they are “200%” sure of an accused’s guilt before prosecution or conviction, no wrongful conviction would occur. I do not at all deny the good faith of the Prosecutor and the Courts in prosecuting and convicting accused persons. However, a person’s sincerely held conviction of an accused’s guilt does not always equate to a correct conviction. Judges and Prosecutors are, as human beings, fallible. This is why the Court of Appeal has, in Yong Vui Kong v Public Prosecutor [2010] 2 SLR 192, stated at [15]:

In our view, the finality principle should not be applied strictly in criminal cases where the life or liberty of the accused is at stake as it would subvert the true value of the judicial process, which is to ensure, as far as possible, that the guilty are convicted and the innocent are acquitted. The floodgates argument should not be allowed to wash away both the guilty and the innocent. Suppose, in a case where the appellate court dismisses an appeal against conviction and the next day the appellant manages to discover some evidence or a line of authorities that show that he has been wrongly convicted, is the court to say that it is functus and, therefore, the appellant should look to the Executive for a pardon or a clemency? In circumstances where there is sufficient material on which the court can say that there has been a miscarriage of justice, this court should be able to correct such mistakes.

Unfortunately, the short window of time in Singapore between a guilty verdict by the Court of Appeal and execution make it an uphill task for an innocent person to obtain exculpatory evidence. Kirk Bloodsworth, which I referenced in my opening statement, would in Singapore’s criminal justice system have been irreversibly executed long before exoneration.

In response to Mr Tan’s second argument set out above, Mr Tan appears to endorse a position in which the cruelty of hanging as a mode of punishment is justified by the cruelty of the harm which offenders inflicted on their victims. My first point is that this argument does not apply to drug offenders, who cannot be said to have caused harms equivalent to their deaths by hanging. My second and more fundamental point is that there are punishments that are morally objectionable no matter the harm caused by the offender. The law cannot mandate that a rapist be raped, or a torturer tortured. The death penalty is one such punishment.

Mr Tan’s third contention assumes that the death penalty has a significant deterrent effect. First, such a claim is empirically doubtful. More fundamentally, it is morally objectionable for a person to be subjected to death in order to deter the public from the person’s offence. This breaches Kant’s categorical imperative, which states that persons are ends in themselves and cannot be treated as a means to an end. Especially in the case of drug offenders, the death penalty illegitimately denies such offenders their agency as human beings, and makes them mere tools in service to a state-directed purpose. This cannot be right.

Mr Tan Peng Chin

No

19th October 2015

With respect to my learned friend, I don’t think it’s possible to reject death, as, unfortunately, dying is part of life. I would also have to disagree with his very first sentence, where he suggests that all kinds of killings are wrong.

Is it wrong for a policeman to shoot and kill a known criminal, who is armed with an automatic rifle and the intent to commit mass murder? Is it wrong for a soldier to kill a terrorist who wants to detonate a bomb that will murder tens if not hundreds of people? If Singapore were invaded by another country, would it be wrong for our soldiers to fight in the war and kill the enemy soldiers?

I do agree that human beings are fallible and we live in a very imperfect world. No justice system created and administered by human beings can be perfect. It can only try its very best to do the right things — which is to protect society and the people who live in that society.

My learned friend has cited the US case of Kirk Bloodsworth as a reason why the death penalty should be abolished in Singapore. I do not wish to comment on the legal system of another country, but I am confident that the injustices found in many other countries will not occur in Singapore because in Singapore:

1) There is minimal or almost no corruption in our police force. The fact that once in a while, we have police officers who are charged and or convicted for accepting bribes or sexual favours for relatively minor offences in fact shows that there is zero tolerance for corruption in our police force, which means that in their investigations into any serious criminal offences, it is most likely to be objective and fair.

2) Unlike many other societies, our police force is multi-racial, and there has never been any allegation or suspicion that our police officers are biased or prejudiced against any race, religion or groups of people.

3) Our Attorney-General and the senior officers in the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) do not have to stand for election or be concerned as to whether they are perceived as hard or soft on crime. And within the AGC, I believe several layers of approval need to be obtained, before a person can be charged with a capital offence.

4) There are now effectively only two kinds of offences that can result in a death sentence: murder and trafficking of certain drugs above a certain amount.

5) I believe our Bench is among the most highly-respected in the world. Our judges of the Supreme Court are not only highly qualified, but compassionate persons with the highest level of integrity and character. I sincerely believe that they appreciate and value human life and, as I had stated in my opening statement, are unlikely to pass the death sentence unless they are absolutely sure that the accused is guilty of the offence.

6) In Singapore, we do not have a jury system. Contrary to popular belief, instead of being impartial and fair, the jury consisting of lay persons may be prejudiced or biased concerning certain groups or class of persons. As such, jury selection is such an important process in the course of the trial in some jurisdictions.

My learned friend cites as an argument for his stance that judges will be more reluctant to find a person guilty if they have to impose the death penalty. To me this is an argument for the death penalty, rather than against it. If a judge does not sentence a person to death, it does not mean that the accused will be released and become a danger to society. In Singapore, the judge can impose some other punishment like life imprisonment.

It is a well-known fact that most surgeons, no matter how good they are, would have accidentally killed a patient on the operating table in the course of their career, or at least could have saved a patient if they had the benefit of hindsight. It is also a fact that doctors have made wrong diagnoses or accidentally prescribed the wrong medicine or treatment resulting in the death of patients. Would my learned friend argue that since our medical system is imperfect and since doctors have wrongly killed patients before, we should also stop doctors from practising medicine?

I had in my opening statement stated why, in my opinion, the death penalty is the only punishment hardcore prisoners are afraid off. I shall not repeat the same points here.

In conclusion I would submit that our justice system would become even less perfect and Singapore society would become even more dangerous, if our courts did not have the option to pass the death sentence for offences that are really abominable.

comments

  • The unavailability of statistics cripples this debate from the outset. For those that support the death penalty, a key proposition is deterrence. However, our state has been opaque in making statistics available to the public. Until there is clear evidence of a link between the death penalty and the corresponding crime rate for offences punishable by death, the deterrence argument will remain an instinctive conjecture. We might be assisted by statistical studies from other jurisdictions where data is readily available. In 2009, a study was published in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology entitled, “Do Executions lower Homicide Rates: The Views of Leading Criminologists?” This study adopted the methodology of surveying leading Criminologists in the USA. The assumption being made is that their views have been conditioned by their own empirical research. The study revealed that overall 94% agreed that there was little empirical evidence to support the deterrent effect of the death penalty.
    I support the abolition of the death penalty purely on moral grounds. The death penalty is a conscious, premeditated form of state killing that is mandated by the law.

    Subramaniam Thirumeni Posted on: Nov 02, 2015

  • Mr Tan’s conclusion that the DP deters is based completely upon his own anecdotal evidence. He provides no empirical evidence to substantiate his claim. However, given the wide-ranging implications of penal policies on real people, such policies must be justified based on concrete criminological data and statistics, rather than on individual personal experience. Especially because the death penalty is the most severe form of punishment, those who seek to impose such a punishment have to justify it. On this front, Mr. Tan has not discharged his burden of proof. In fact, Mr. Tan avoids this responsibility by arguing that even if it is impossible to prove its deterrent effect, the death penalty should still be imposed.

    Even assuming that the death penalty is indeed an effective deterrent, compelling reasons still exist as to why the death penalty should not be imposed.

    What needs to be noted is Mr. Tan is not just suggesting that the offender be punished because of what he has done, but primarily to deter potential criminals. The very crux of deterrence is to punish the offender in order to deter would-be offenders. Essentially, we are punishing the offender to prevent would-be criminals from offending, even though the offender is not personally responsible for crimes committed by these hypothetical criminals. In this respect, we are also punishing the offender for an offence he has not committed, and in which he is “innocent”. But I suspect that Mr. Tan would accept this, since he is willing to run the risk of executing innocent people. In that case, and by extension from the deterrent logic, Mr. Tan must also be prepared to defend and argue that we should consider executing the loved ones of those who commit murder/drug trafficking, since it does not matter that the subject of punishment is not responsible for the crime. Arguably, one might argue that executing the loved ones of the accused might provide an even greater deterrent effect.

    Yet, if we flinch at such a suggestion, it might because we recognize that there are moral limits on punishment.The biggest problem with Mr. Tan’s argument is that he recognizes no such limits on how far we may go to achieve the goal of deterrence. Thus, any such punishment, including the execution of the loved ones of the accused, can be justified on Mr. Tan’s grounds. Perhaps deterrence does not provide an adequate justification after all, unless we are prepared to accept that there are no limits as to how far we may go to achieve the effect of deterrence, and the cost and trade-offs that accompanies it.

    Mr. Tan then goes on to supplement the deterrence argument by arguing that the offender has committed a serious crime and deserves punishment (although as have been noted above, the deterrence argument punishes the offender more so for the crime he is not responsible for). His argument here is confusing. In his opening statement, he makes the argument that “if the maximum punishment (e.g., life imprisonment) is imposed on the murderer, then it should be sufficient punishment to avenge his crime”. But he then concludes that the death penalty should be imposed for such abominable crimes. If deterrence is the deciding factor why the punishment should be death instead of life, then the problems of deterrence in justifying the death penalty that have been highlighted above requires proponents of the death penalty to look for other justifications to support their contention.

    Priscilla Chia Posted on: Nov 02, 2015

  • InIn Kho Jabing’s unique case, the fact that there were disagreements on whether the death sentence was appropriate, not just from ordinary citizens like myself, or law students, or even lawyers, but experienced judges from the appealate court and also the high court should make us examine more carefully the meaning of the term ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. Is it reasonable doubt when it is 33.33%? Some may say yes, some may say no.

    However, this should show that there certainly needs more debate on the application of our laws to understand them, to improve them. Also more deliberations need to be made upon the impact the death penalty has on our community, on families from both sides.

    Mr. Tan asks a few questions in conclusion. I will provide responses to each of them below.

    1) Do most people agree that Singapore is a much safer society than many other similar countries?

    Yes but it would be a mistake to think that it is the sole result of laws like the death penalty.

    2) What is it that makes Singapore a much safer country and society?

    It is more so on the dedication of the public service who serve with the best of their abilities within the functions that the law and public institutions provide. If the death penalty or any other law is replaced, I do not think the dedication of our men and women of the civil service would waver the slightest, therefore it would not diminish the commitment or responsibility of the judiciary or the home team to keep crime at bay.

    3) If Singapore did not have perceived “draconian” measures against drug trafficking, would we end up having a much more serious drug problem?

    Again it is not just the draconian laws which make our society safer from drugs and other crimes which have strong links to social and economic factors. It is simplistic and non-factual to think that the authorities’ efforts in the ongoing protection against drug crimes do not involve connecting or strengthening the communities, to be more resilient from such social ills. Just searching through the official website of the Singapore Police Force on anti-drug efforts and campaigns will confirm this.

    Historically the death penalty is a remnant of a bygone era. An era where the sophistication of research in areas of crime, law, justice, social issues and etcetera, was not available. Where compassion needed to be traded in for the sake of justice.

    Singapore is currently perfectly poised to balance this by expanding our capacity for compassion. In this era, where Singapore seeks to benefit from being a knowledge-based economy which values intellectual capability more than ever before, we certainly have the capacity to seek to replace blunt punishments like the death penalty with sharper, more sensitive ones which take into account their holistic effects within the community and to all parties involved.

    Additionally with the continued dedication of the men and women within our public service, I believe that we can choose life just as Mr Eugene Thuraisingam has proclaimed, to better uphold justice and express compassion for both the individual and society. Is a just society which is also compassionate not for the benefit of all, for both present and for future generations?

    Soe Min Than Posted on: Oct 30, 2015

  • In defense of Kho Jabing’s unique case, the fact that there were disagreements on whether the death sentence was appropriate, not just from ordinary citizens like myself, or law students, or even lawyers, but experienced judge. from the appealate court and also the high court should make us examine the meaning of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. Is it reasonable doubt when it is 33.33%? Some may say yes, some may say no.

    However, there certainly needs more diliberations on the impact the death penalty has on our community, on families from both sides.

    Mr. Tan asks the followi

    Soe Min Than Posted on: Oct 30, 2015

  • Section 300(c) of the Penal Code prescribes that an act is murder “if it is done with the intention of causing bodily injury to any person, and the bodily injury intended to be inflicted is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death”.

    With or without such a definition written down in the Penal Code, the death penalty is in fact the most premeditated form of murder in the world in which each and every step, from the passing of the sentence to the execution itself, is conducted with the intention to end a human life. The only thing that stops many from perceiving it as murder, is the fact that it is carried out with the approval and sponsorship of the state, and in the name of justice. On top of that, there seems to be an automatic acceptance that the existence of a retributive justice system is the only way a society can work to maintain or uphold justice of any kind. Perhaps it is time that we explore the possibility of judicial reform, and make a gradual transformation to having a justice system that is based on the principles of restorative justice.

    I do not agree with the act of killing any criminals, because it is a short cut method of “justice” that has not proven to be a deterrent against crimes, nor does it actually work to solve any social issues leading to the occurrence of crimes. When a crime happens, the focus is often placed on the crime itself rather than factors leading to the crime (e.g., existence of adversity of any kind) which is certainly myopic. There is no place for the death penalty in this day and age, and I strongly believe that it should be abolished.

    Rachel Zeng Posted on: Oct 21, 2015

  • Mr Tan’s opening statement is awful and fraught with major undefendable assumptions and most worryingly for a secular state, repeatedly references religion as a moral benchmark for our secular society.

    Firstly, he takes prisoners’ coping mechanism of caning (braggadocio) at total face value and assumes that it therefore is not a deterrent at all. Come on, it obviously isn’t the case. After being restrained and whipped like an animal, men who are socially conditioned not to display weakness are trying to salvage what little pride they can. To a sensible person, it shouldn’t mean that it automatically makes them completely unafraid of it.

    Secondly, without meaningful substantiation, he repeatedly makes the case that deterrence WILL prevent crime. Firstly, he assumes that Singapore’s low crime rate is automatically due to capital punishment without any causal evidence. He also ignores evidence that everywhere else, deterrent justice systems are less successful in preventing repeat offenses compared to rehabilitation focused systems.

    He also assumes revenge is the best way to make victims feel better (not true).

    Last of all, he assumes the only alternative is life imprisonment

    Bryan Gan Posted on: Oct 14, 2015

  • Mr Thuraisingam makes the better argument here by raising the fact that there is no conclusive evidence that the death penalty has any unique efficacy re: deterrence. Mr Tan strongly believes in the deterrent power of the death penalty, but his support draws almost entirely from anecdotal experience.

    Given the gravity of the situation, I believe that the burden of proof should lie on death penalty advocates to prove that the death penalty is more efficacious than alternative punishments (such as caning and life imprisonment) in order to justify its existence. Mr Thuraisingam rightly points out that this evidence needs to be “clear or reliable” – Mr Tan’s anecdotes are neither, and by failing to meet the standard, vindicates Mr Thuraisingam’s point.

    Nigel Na Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • I am reminded of the expression, “There but for the grace of god go I”. Everyone makes mistakes in their lives, sometimes very serious mistakes, sometimes committed in the heat of the moment or due to other circumstances, but no-one is beyond reform and rehabilitation. The playing field is not level at birth, and some of us commit a foul whilst engaging in the game of life, for which we deserve to get sent off the playing field to the side line while we reflect on our actions and make improvements. But it is not a reason to turn out the lights. Even the referee may make an error in calling the foul and only later utilising new scientific advancements does that error become apparent. To argue for abolishing the death penalty is not an argument that there should be no punishment. Incarceration and removal from society, potentially for a lengthy period, is a strong and appropriate punishment. Imprisonment and the loss of privacy, liberty and opportunity, having to watch as the world goes by without you, is a powerful disincentive to commit crime. It serves the purpose of retribution for the victim. There are studies which show that adding the death penalty to the punishment regime does not add to crime deterrence. Indeed we live in a relatively safe environment, and long may it remain so, but there are several possible explanations for this, and no certainty that it is due to the presence of the death penalty. It is time for society to show its humanity.

    Bill Bowman Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • I believe in the equal value of every human life, and that means a person is no less valuable in existing just because they committed a crime, no matter how grievous it might be. Every person is entitled to the opportunity to receive forgiveness from those whom he or she has hurt or brought pain to, as well as the chance to mend his or her ways — be it in spending the rest of his/her life in prison or part of it inside and part outside.

    Many a prison volunteer can attest to countless stories of prisoners on death row who have experienced true repentance and were at peace with themselves before being sent to the gallows. The lives of these men and women could have been saved and spent more fruitfully, contributing to society.

    Indeed it can be argued they may still be dangerous, so it may be more worthwhile to monitor their progress, and should they really repeat their crimes, lock them away for the rest of their lives — no matter what happens, snuffing out a life makes no sense and has little proven deterrent effect against serious crime either.

    Jeanette Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • Call me the naive idealist but my reasons for wanting the death penalty abolished are simple.

    They presuppose a fundamental humanistic instinct inherent in all human beings, which is the valuing of human life. Human life has worth and dignity, be that of the aristocrat or the pauper, the bourgeoisie or the proletariat and as such the taking away of human life is antithetical to eudaimonia, or human flourishing. This includes the murder of an apparent criminal by the judiciary.

    Punitive justice to me is not justice in the truest sense of the word as two wrongs in this case will not make a right. It only renders shameless the legal system and its enforcers.

    Benjamin Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • I have not seen any research on the effect of of the death penalty and crime rates in Singapore.

    The late Father G Arotcarena who spent many years administering to prisoners and looking after the welfare of ex offenders had this to say about death row inmates and the death penalty:

    “I can testify that, in most of these men, something human remained which only needed to be revived and maintained. The death penalty is nothing but an act of vengeance. It has nothing to do with justice. It lowers the society that imposes it, bringing it to the level of the criminals against whom it uses the sentence, supposedly to protect itself. As Confucius said: “He who gives way to vengeance digs two graves: one for his enemy and the other for himself.” The Singapore government would do itself proud if it abolished the death penalty. Unfortunately, it has not reached that point yet.” I am optimistic that the death penalty will be abolished one day.

    Teo Soh Lung Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • I support the abolition of the death penalty in Singapore because the benefits to society are far outweighed by the associated risks.

    As Mr. Tan indicates, the main benefit of the death penalty is its deterrent potential. But logically, the death penalty only deters those who do not fear the next harshest punishment. In Singapore, it would deter only those criminals who do not fear life in prison, but who fear an earlier death. Surely this cannot be all (or even most) criminals?

    Against this, we must set the real risk of executing an undeserving person, which has been dealt with in detail by previous commentators.

    Mr Tan believes it is more likely for a person to be killed on the roads than for an innocent person to be hanged. That is not the comparison we should make. We should instead ask: Can we, in good conscience, trade the risk of executing undeserving human beings for the narrow slice of deterrence the death penalty adds to our justice system? My personal answer is no.

    Qabir Sandhu Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • “I understand there are usually about two dozen witnesses to these executions and I sometimes wonder about those who will be at mine, unknown, faceless men rooting for me to die, happy to see me breathe my last breath. I wonder about men who do not know me, have never met me, never broken bread with me and who know nothing about what’s in my heart, who nonetheless are anxious, eager, happy to see me die.
    It does not bother me, but I wonder if it will ever bother any of those men (and yes, it’s almost always men, with their lust for blood; women seldom indulge in this), perhaps in their sunset years when they reflect back on their youth and wonder about their imperatives. I hope, for their sakes, that one day they will be ashamed — or at least disappointed — with their naked blood lust and will determine to henceforth set a better example for those following behind them.” -William Van Poyck, executed June 12, 2013 in the US

    By directly participating in the execution process, prison workers have to face the moral implications of knowingly participating in the act of killing another human being. At the same time, those responsible for carrying out the execution do not have the benefit of having heard all evidence presented at the trial. Many times the doubt of the condemned person’s guilt is a heavy burden on the consciences of those that have to perform the execution.

    “If you let the judge be the executioner, I think he would give a second thought about sending somebody to be executed.” -Jerry Givens, retired Executioner, Virginia Department of Corrections.
    “There is nothing commonplace about walking a healthy young man to a room, strapping him into a chair, and coldly, methodically killing him.” -Donald Cabana, former Warden, Mississippi State Penitentiary.

    It is a false assumption to think that in the body’s mode of “flight or fight”, when adrenaline hormones are being pumped throughout the body for aggressive, vigorous action, that we are able to pause and think about our fate calmly, about what constitutes manslaughter, grievous hurt, or maybe to check with a lawyer. Plea bargaining in drugs cases here assumes that all couriers, lowest level members in syndicates know enough for “substantively assisting in CNB’s operations to disrupt drug trafficking activities within or outside of Singapore”.

    On the definitions of retribution and revenge, it may be defined differently depending on where the terms are used. However if you look at psychological studies, revenge is called the psychology of retribution. In studies related to perceptions of justice, feelings of revenge have been specifically addressed. They reveal what is called the “revenge paradox” and that “rather than providing closure, [taking our revenge] does the opposite: It keeps the wound open and fresh”.
    Some scientists believe that revenge is a primitive instinct that has been left over from the days of our early ancestors during their struggle for survival as tribes. Additionally that the human race later developed, a forgiveness instinct “that enables people to suppress the desire for revenge and signal their willingness to continue on, even though someone has harmed their interests, assuming the person will refrain from doing so again in the future” (Michael McCullough, PhD, Professor of Psychology at the University of Miami).

    In the April 2011 issue of the European Journal of Social Psychology a study showed that “If the message (the offender’s recognizing of his wrongdoing) is not delivered, it cannot re-establish justice” (Mario Gollwitzer, psychological scientist). This suggests that it is not the form of punishment but the effect of a punishment producing guilt for the offender, as being more valuable to victims of wrongdoing. Therefore capital punishment need not be the only ‘worthy’ punishment for the most violent/serious crimes in relating to the victim’s loved ones, or the victim’s interest. It is another false assumption to think that the victim would want another’s life to be taken away from another family, from another loved one.

    All of the above suggest that justice can be better achieved if the punishment manages to balance the revenge instinct (knowledge of wrongdoer’s guilt) with the forgiveness instinct (on condition that the wrongdoer has reformed). The simplest of generalisations is to kill the worst wrongdoers of our time, and those who remain living will be safe, better for it. However can we still afford such simplistic thinking by ignoring the rigorous but worthy exercise of ethics and ethical standards? Can we still truly believe that a person who ends up on death row is the only one that suffers? What about the family and loved ones, such as children? What is the real social impact of killing prisoners? The executed can no longer commit future wrongdoing to society just as surely as the murder victim can no longer contribute to society. However what is the real cost of giving death to a prisoner, which also renders him/her no longer able to contribute, versus life imprisonment, which still allows some contribution to society (at the very minimum to their families, or prison community)?

    The state takes on the responsibility, and its civil servants carry out the deed, from arrest, prosecution, judgement to execution. Moreover, it is for the sake of the rest of us, for our safety, for society. The state should rightly lay out the real costs of capital punishment. Comprehensive studies should focus on the effects, to the families of victims lost to violent crime, to families of those executed, to health of death row prison staff, to rate of violent crime, to rate of drug offenses, to mental state of death row prisoners in last days leading up to time of execution and to other relevant social factors. The question of why the death penalty did not deter those who committed the crime also needs to be explicitly addressed. An extensive review of other alternative policies practiced in other states and to explicitly state which ones may/ may not be suitable here and why, is also needed.

    Without such information to review before deciding to take a human life seems grossly unethical. All this would have been impossible undertakings 50 years ago during the time of our earlier generation of pioneering leaders but very manageable now in this modern age of research and shared global knowledge systems. Such research and knowledge would also be greatly valued regardless of the findings and Singapore may be better poised and also in urgent need for such comprehensive studies than any other nation due to its population density and limited land mass.

    Soe Min Than Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • It is inhuman to kill another person whatever the reason is. We must not be murderers ourselves.

    I disagree that the reason of death penalty is to deter offender. Most likely he’ll be in jail under the highest security.

    I disagree that the reason of death penalty is to deter others doing heinous crimes. Why must someone be punished to death, to deter something that may or may not be done in the future, moreover by others?

    Since Mr Tan Peng Chin mentioned the Roman Catholic, it forbids killing another person. It’s stated in the Ten Commandments.

    Handaya Rusli Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • I’m against the death penalty due to how it has falsely killed so many people worldwide due to racial (and other) bias. Studies also suggest that it takes more money to send someone to hang than it does to keep them imprisoned forever. The death penalty is also proven to not be a deterrent for crime so much that it is an easy way out for criminals who’d rather die than be imprisoned indefinitely. Also it’s unfair in other ways: sending someone who killed one person to hang vs the same punishment for someone who killed fifteen. They say someone forfeits their right to life when they kill but if they killed fifteen times we can’t kill them fifteen times over, can we? Also it’s plain cruel and medieval to kill people for drug trafficking.

    Drima Chakraborty Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • 1. Simply read Mhd Kadar v PP [2011] SGCA 32 and any fantasies about 200% certainty will be immediately dispelled. What emerges is shocking, to say the least.

    2. If prison life is “hard, meaningless and demoralising”, surely life imprisonment is an effective deterrent.

    3. Who are we really punishing by executing people? I submit it is their family members who effectively, have to endure their relative being legally killed by the State. Why should they be punished instead of the offender having to spend a lifetime reflecting on his crime, apart from society?

    4. Mr Tan touches only on violent crime. What about death penalty for drug mules? His eye for an eye rationale holds no sway here.

    5. Most developed countries have abolished the death penalty. Why?

    Has the lack of executions for the past 50 years resulted in increased crime rates in places like Scandanavia, which enjoys comparable crime rates with Singapore? No.

    It does not effectively deter non-premeditated crime.

    Jared Dass Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • There is no simply convincing evidence that harsher penalties deter crime. In 2012 by a committee of the American National Academy of Sciences National Review Council reviewed 34 years of research on the death penalty and homicide in the US and concluded that “it is impossible to draw credible findings about the effect of the death penalty on homicide”. With – literally – life and death at stake, it is heinously irresponsible and unethical to continue killing human beings on such a shaky foundation.

    Jolene Tan Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • Mr Tan Peng Chin argued that the courts would never impose the death penalty upon someone unless they were 200% sure of his/her guilt. How does he reconcile this 200% confidence with cases where there are dissenting judgements? As Mr Thuraisingam pointed out, there was a dissenting judge in Took Leng How’s case – yet he was executed anyway. As I write this Sarawakian Kho Jabing is sitting on death row even though two out of the five judges on the Court of Appeal bench felt he should not be sentenced to death. Unanimous decisions are not required in Singapore for the death sentence to be imposed or upheld – how is this the overwhelming confidence that Mr Tan described?

    Kirsten Han Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • Both Kho Jabing and Khaddar case shows the resilience and impartiality of the court system in Singapore for the severity of imposing the death penalty.
    The facts of the cases are clear in which the perpetrators are identified.
    In regards to the mens rear argument by critics, it would be better as a considered judgement by the panel rather than the chorus of anti death penalty activists.
    Furthermore, for heinous crimes against children or even serial murderers, it is blatant injustice for the victims or families of such victims to know that such perpetrators remain among them, yet at times, the dismissive arguments and ridicule heaped by such activists are beyond the pale.

    Wang Posted on: Nov 02, 2015

  • Although I am in agreement with TPC’s argument that the death penalty should continue to be imposed, but only “for the very heinous crimes or crimes that cause tremendous harm to society so that criminals or potential criminals will be deterred from committing such crimes” I would like to say that the questions raised by him in the concluding part of his post have little or no bearing in serving as arguments for his stance against the motion for the debate.

    1) Do most people agree that Singapore is a much safer society than many other similar countries?

    Singapore may be a safer society compared with some other countries but the issue of safety may have nothing to do with the fact that the death penalty is a feature of its laws.

    2) If Singapore did not have perceived “draconian” measures against drug trafficking, would we end up having a much more serious drug problem?

    How can we ever provide a meaningful answer without relevant statistics or from past experience, from both sides of the line?

    Countries without the death penalty – do they have higher cases of drug trafficking compared with Singapore? Even if the answer is Yes, other factors, besides the death penalty, may be involved. If the answer is No, does it support the argument that the death penalty is a reason for the lower incidence of drug trafficking? The answer is a resounding NO, as there may be a diversity of factors or reasons.

    Regrettably, both debaters seem to have disregarded the comments posted in the comments section. Nothing specific was raised about pointers made by observers to the debate.

    Richard Woo Posted on: Nov 01, 2015

  • Eugene: I choose life… because the sanctity of life is not something we can take upon ourselves to violate.

    Eugene’s assertion “the sanctity of life is not something we can take upon ourselves to violate” leaves the avenue open for further discussion or debate.

    What does he mean by “sanctity of life”? Is he talking of human life or any kind of life? OK, let’s assume he is referring to human life – and my question is: What about non-human life, say, the cow, the pig, the chicken, etc? And why should only human life be considered sanctimonious, if the term “sanctity” cannot and should not apply to non-human life? Is Eugene connected to a certain religiosity and takes the view that people are made in God’s image and that human life has an inherently sacred attribute that should be protected and respected at all times? If he thinks that sanctity is applicable to human life only, is such thinking based on his religious upbringing? What justification can he provide for thinking that non-human life, unlike human life, is not sanctimonious?

    In his opening statement Eugene has made the claim that it is wrong to kill another person but here he is clearly offering the justification that it is not wrong for a policeman shooting and killing an armed criminal intent on committing mass murder. He says: “…with a known criminal armed with an automatic rifle, there is no doubt that he will commit mass murder if he is not stopped. This — the certainty of harm that will be caused — is the fundamental difference between the state condoning the killing of a person facing the death penalty and the policeman killing an armed criminal with the intention to commit mass murder.”

    Here, Eugene seems to have taken the position that there is no doubt that the armed criminal would kill if he is not killed first; prevention [or deterrence?] is better than cure, as most of us might agree. But how can he justify his certainty that the criminal in question would commit mass murder if left alone? Of course, one has to factor in all relevant factors, to justify one’s actions or thoughts. Can we argue there is a chance that the armed criminal may not commit mass murder if left alone? Appearances alone can be deceptive. However, we can never tell, for sure. So, we may still argue that killing the criminal in the circumstances may be justified, to obviate the risks of him killing other people. If Eugene accepts that it is not wrong in the policeman killing the criminal, in the scenario we have described, then Eugene has to admit that it is not wrong to kill another person – where there is ethical or legal justification for doing so; hence he should now admit that he has made an error of judgment in saying in his opening statement that it is wrong to kill another person.

    Eugene’s concluding comment: “In conclusion, I highlight that the rights and wrongs of the death penalty have been debated over many decades and there is still no clear universal stance taken on it. Perhaps there will never be a universal stance taken, and if so, in the face of such moral dilemma, I say we should always choose life.”

    It is clear: Eugene may choose life while others may prefer death over life.

    Regrettably, both debaters seem to have disregarded the comments posted in the comments section. Nothing specific was raised about pointers made by observers to the debate.

    Richard Woo Posted on: Nov 01, 2015

  • In the case of Kho Jabing which Ms Kirsten Han refers to in her comments in favour of abolishing the death penalty, it was not in doubt that Jabing attempted to rob the deceased, and struck him in the head *at least* twice with a piece of wood without provocation or notice, and with great violence, fracturing the skull. I would have concluded that the death penalty was an appropriate punishment in that case on any view of the facts.

    Yeoh Lian Chuan Posted on: Oct 26, 2015

  • The death sentence should not be abolished, but should only be used on the worst of crimes, because there will always be crimes so heinous and criminals so unrepentant that the best way to deal with them is to execute them.

    From a moral perspective, using massive amounts of public resources to keep such criminals alive would be immoral – why make everyone work harder just so these people can stay alive?

    Also, is it moral to cause the criminal decades of suffering, locked away in prison? If your answer to that is to make prison life good enough so that criminals don’t experience suffering, then is it moral for law-abiding, tax-paying citizens to fund a good life for a criminal?

    From a utilitarian perspective, executing such a criminal would be the moral choice. Good citizens suffer less by not having to fund his imprisonment with their tax dollars, and the criminal suffers less by not having to go through decades of prison life.

    The only alternative I see is if they somehow turn prison into some form of labour camp where the prisoners are put to work to generate equal or greater economic gain that it costs to imprison them – then I would be in support of keeping them alive.

    Chris Posted on: Oct 21, 2015

  • I believe when Mr Thuraisingam suggests that “If we cannot and do not even begin to understand why we are here and where we came from…, then we cannot claim the power to take it away”, it weakens his case. In the first place, those who support keeping the death penalty are not necessarily claiming divine mandate.

    If we follow his argument, then a logical outworking would be that neither can an individual/society claim to know what is ultimately right or wrong, good or evil? If we are uncertain and confused about the purpose/meaning of life, then who or where do we turn to for an objective basis of morality? Interestingly enough, Mr Thuraisingam began with an assertion that “killing another person is wrong” but fail to explain the basis for his moral claim.

    We all desire a society that rightly tempers justice with mercy. Often, the death penalty has been mistaken to be a blunt, cruel instrument of justice. But before we remove it, one should consider its purpose. Would a life sentence suffice for certain heinous crimes? Is justice upheld when the State has to channel resources to care for unrepentant mass murderers? Why is living behind bars more merciful than a death penalty?

    Edwin Wong Posted on: Oct 16, 2015

  • Agreed with the views of Mr Tan Peng Chin

    a) Considering the safeguards presently in place, the factual circumstances especially in the light of DNA evidence leaves little room for doubt for the facts in any death penalty case.
    b) the calls for abolishment ignores the cries of the victims of the crimes especially the families and the children of such crimes.
    c) it is a double injustice that the cries for abolishment only views it from the case of the perpetrators who unless due to actual documented and verified cases of coercion (which case manslaughter may be considered), the death penalty should be imposed.
    d) the abolishment of such severe judicial penalties will leave even more the cases of possibly worse crimes being committed and the families and children of such crimes being made to suffer more since they are aware that the perpetrators of such crimes remain among them in present day Singapore

    Respectfully

    Wang Posted on: Oct 16, 2015

  • In war, people are killed, soldiers are killed. In peacetime, there is also a war which is the war against crime. The ultimate victory against heinous crimes is to kill the criminal, and in doing so the offence is taken away and evened out and the society will have peace.

    If you let the troublemakers against peace in the society to live, you are not doing justice to the society at large. The criminals will be emboldened, seeing that they can kill, traffick drugs and if they are caught, they will not be punished by death since the law of the society is weak against them.

    Hardcore criminals are the cancer of the society which must be rid of. If you have cancer in the body, will you let it grow or kill it before it affect the whole body? Will you be merciful to the cancer in the body and let it spread?

    To rid the society of its cancerous living cells — that is criminals or offenders who committed heinous crimes, these cancerous living cells of the society must be sentenced from being alive in the society. It is medically right to do so for benefit of all the ‘good’ people.

    Mike Posted on: Oct 15, 2015

  • Our justice system shows more sympathy for criminals than it does victims. It’s time we put the emphasis of our criminal justice system back on protecting the victim rather than the accused. Remember, a person who’s on death row has almost always committed crimes before this. A long line of victims have been waiting for justice. We need justice for current and past victims.

    It provides a deterrent for prisoners already serving a life sentence. What about people already sentenced to life in prison. What’s to stop them from murdering people constantly while in prison? What are they going to do–extend their sentences? Sure, they can take away some prison privileges, but is this enough of a deterrent to stop the killing? What about a person sentenced to life who happens to escape? What’s to stop him from killing anyone who might try to bring him in or curb his crime spree?

    DNA testing and other methods of modern crime scene science can now effectively eliminate almost all uncertainty as to a person’s guilt or innocence. One of the biggest arguments against the death penalty is the possibility of error. Sure, we can never completely eliminate all uncertainty, but nowadays, it’s about as close as you can get. DNA testing is over 99 percent effective. And even if DNA testing and other such scientific methods didn’t exist, the trial and appeals process is so thorough it’s next to impossible to convict an innocent person. Remember, a jury of 12 members must unanimously decide there’s not even a reasonable doubt the person is guilty. The number of innocent people that might somehow be convicted is no greater than the number of innocent victims of the murderers who are set free.

    Joseph Posted on: Oct 14, 2015

  • The death penalty gives closure to the victim’s families who have suffered so much. Some family members of crime victims may take years or decades to recover from the shock and loss of a loved one. Some may never recover. One of the things that helps hasten this recovery is to achieve some kind of closure. Life in prison just means the criminal is still around to haunt the victim. A death sentence brings finality to a horrible chapter in the lives of these family members.

    It creates another form of crime deterrent. Crime would run rampant as never before if there wasn’t some way to deter people from committing the acts. Prison time is an effective deterrent, but with some people, more is needed. Prosecutors should have the option of using a variety of punishments in order to minimize crime.

    Justice is better served. The most fundamental principle of justice is that the punishment should fit the crime. When someone plans and brutally murders another person, doesn’t it make sense that the punishment for the perpetrator also be death?

    Dany Posted on: Oct 14, 2015

  • There is still a place for the death penalty today, if and only if, it is carried out against perpetrators of the most severe and vicious of crimes and only when it coheres with the wider society’s inherent sense of justice.

    And if the death penalty can prevent a murderer from murdering again, that will result in innocent lives saved.

    Besides deterrence and prevention, the death penalty also affords some form of rehabilitation: The fear of death is a psychological burden for most and it is in this finality of the outcome that some form of rehabilitation can take place.

    Examples of people on death row taking the opportunity to repent and make amends are plentiful, even though the criminal cannot be rehabilitated and returned to polite society.

    And this karmic argument also coheres with society’s sometimes wonky sense of justification where the belief is that bad things happen to bad people. And hence, the contrary holds that good things must happen to good people.

    It might not straighten the bad person out, but it keeps the good on the straight and narrow. And there is no evidence for this, because one cannot reason from things that did not happen.

    Belmont Lay Posted on: Oct 14, 2015

  • My position is one that does not support the total abolition of the death penalty. I take the view that the death penalty should continue to be imposed but only for crimes of such gravity that without imposing the death penalty there is no question of justice being served. No one should be allowed to escape the death penalty if they have [1] committed murder or mass murder [2] raped or tortured resulting in the death of their human victim[s] [3] killed a human or some humans under contract killing. This list is not exhaustive of course and can be expanded to include other crimes of similar gravity or severity.

    UN rights experts have recently issued a warning that “executions for drug crimes amount to a violation of international law and are unlawful killings.” And it is heartening to note that Singapore has made some changes to the law concerning the death penalty so that it is no longer mandatory and judges in court trials are now given some leeway to consider whether something less than capital punishment is warranted in the circumstances.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment_by_country
    As of July 2015, of the 196 independent states that are UN members or have UN observer status:
    102 have abolished it for all crimes;
    7 have abolished it, but retain it for exceptional or special circumstances (such as crimes committed in wartime);
    50 retain it, but have not used it for at least 10 years or are under a moratorium;
    37 retain it in both law and practice.

    Tan Peng Chin [TPC] has argued principally on “deterrent” as a factor supporting his position for maintaining the death penalty. For one thing, the death penalty has been a part of Singapore’s criminal justice system for so long; but has it really deterred crimes from being committed? Can the number of people sentenced to death over the last 80 years, say, be indicative of its effectiveness? We can never really tell, whether the number can be considered significant or not. A high figure can be interpreted as a case of the death penalty being ineffective, while a low figure can be seen as lending support to its effectiveness. But what sort of baseline or standard should one use to determine what is high or low? Nothing of substance can emanate from there, I suppose. There are too many issues to consider.

    Elsewhere, in other places, in some US cities, for example, it was found that some cities practicing the death penalty were having high crime rates compared with other US cities with death penalty but having low crime rates.

    This assertion of TPC seems self-defeating: “Many of us who have never been imprisoned before cannot imagine how hard, meaningless and demoralising prison life can be. Even though all of us believe that life is precious, very few appreciate what a living hell life imprisonment can be. Some proponents against the death penalty seem to forget that sooner or later, all of us will die.” If prison life is so bad or so hellish, why should we bother with capital punishment?

    Another assertion of TPC: “I was a volunteer with the Roman Catholic Prison Ministry for many years, and based on my interaction with many prisoners, including hardcore criminals, I have concluded that the only punishment that criminals are afraid of, is the death penalty.”

    The prisoners who expressed such a sentiment had probably not considered the consequences of their actions that could plausibly lead to capital punishment; if they had weighed and considered, then they should have no reason to be talking like that, after the fact.

    Eugene says: “To kill another person is wrong. Why should that be any different when killing takes place in the name of the state?”

    Killing another person is not always wrong, however. How could it be held to be wrong if, say, A killed B in self-defense? B would have killed A if A had not acted in self-defense. In a war there is no question of wrong or right; you kill your foe or your foe will kill you.

    Let’s consider this assertion of Eugene: “We cannot and do not even begin to understand why we are here and where we came from. If we cannot even answer where life comes from, how on earth can we claim the power to take it away?”

    We may not have the answer to why we are here or where we came from, but we have the intelligence in putting in place a justice system for the purpose of providing safety, protection and social order to the community as a whole. And the power to forfeit, say, the life of a person is one that is conferred under the aforesaid justice system, which arose through a collective decision. As the death penalty was the result of a collective decision at institutional level, it can be abolished through a decision exercised similarly.

    Of course, miscarriages of justice have occurred – involving the death penalty or otherwise. There is no way we can restore a person’s life once that person has been put to death. The greatest reason for abolishing the death penalty is the plausibility of committing an error of judgment by holding someone guilty when that person is in fact innocent and then sentencing the person to death. And that’s why type 1 errors are taboo to those administering punishment.

    Richard Woo Posted on: Oct 14, 2015

  • In the same vein or rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s… If you choose to live in Singapore, you cannot choose not to abide by its laws. Stop comparing with other countries. Speak and act for what is relevant in this country you choose to call home.

    Sheldon Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • PRO: “Society is justly ordered when each person receives what is due to him. Crime disturbs this just order, for the criminal takes from people their lives, peace, liberties, and worldly goods in order to give himself undeserved benefits. Deserved punishment protects society morally by restoring this just order, making the wrongdoer pay a price equivalent to the harm he has done. This is retribution, not to be confused with revenge, which is guided by a different motive. In retribution the spur is the virtue of indignation, which answers injury with injury for public good… Retribution is the primary purpose of just punishment as such… [R]ehabilitation, protection, and deterrence have a lesser status in punishment than retribution.”
    The crimes of rape, torture, treason, kidnapping, murder, larceny, and perjury pivot on a moral code that escapes apodictic [indisputably true] proof by expert testimony or otherwise. But communities would plunge into anarchy if they could not act on moral assumptions less certain than that the sun will rise in the east and set in the west. Abolitionists may contend that the death penalty is inherently immoral because governments should never take human life, no matter what the provocation. But that is an article of faith, not of fact. The death penalty honors human dignity by treating the defendant as a free moral actor able to control his own destiny for good or for ill; it does not treat him as an animal with no moral sense

    Zeus Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • In a larger sense, capital punishment is the ultimate warning against all crimes. If the criminal knows that the justice system will not stop at putting him to death, then the system appears more draconian to him. Not all, but many criminals who ride the fence on committing murder ultimately decide to spare the victim’s life.
    A system in place for the purpose of granting justice cannot do so for the surviving victims, unless the murderer himself is put to death.
    The justice system basically attempts to mete out punishment that fits the crime. Severe crimes result in imprisonment. ”Petty larceny” is not treated with the severity that is meted to “grand theft auto,” and the latter, consequently, receives more time in prison. So if severe—but non-lethal—violence toward another is found deserving of life without parole, then why should premeditated homicide be given the very same punishment? This fact might induce a would-be criminal to go ahead and kill the victim he has already mugged and crippled. Why would it matter, after all? His sentence could not get any worse.If murder is the willful deprivation of a victim’s right to life, then the justice system’s willful deprivation of the criminal’s right to the same is—even if overly severe—a punishment which fits the most severe crime that can be committed. Without capital punishment, it could be argued that the justice system makes no provision in response to the crime of murder, and thus provides no justice for the victim.

    Archie tan Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • First a reminder of the basic argument behind retribution and punishment:

    all guilty people deserve to be punished
    only guilty people deserve to be punished
    guilty people deserve to be punished in proportion to the severity of their crime
    This argument states that real justice requires people to suffer for their wrongdoing, and to suffer in a way appropriate for the crime. Each criminal should get what their crime deserves and in the case of a murderer what their crime deserves is death

    Life imprisonment without parole does not protects society adequately. The offender may no longer be a danger to the public, but he remains a danger to prison staff and other inmates. Execution would remove that danger.

    Plea bargaining is used in most countries. It’s the process through which a criminal gets a reduced sentence in exchange for providing help to the police.

    Where the possible sentence is death, the prisoner has the strongest possible incentive to try to get their sentence reduced.

    Boris Lee Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

comments

  • The unavailability of statistics cripples this debate from the outset. For those that support the death penalty, a key proposition is deterrence. However, our state has been opaque in making statistics available to the public. Until there is clear evidence of a link between the death penalty and the corresponding crime rate for offences punishable by death, the deterrence argument will remain an instinctive conjecture. We might be assisted by statistical studies from other jurisdictions where data is readily available. In 2009, a study was published in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology entitled, “Do Executions lower Homicide Rates: The Views of Leading Criminologists?” This study adopted the methodology of surveying leading Criminologists in the USA. The assumption being made is that their views have been conditioned by their own empirical research. The study revealed that overall 94% agreed that there was little empirical evidence to support the deterrent effect of the death penalty.
    I support the abolition of the death penalty purely on moral grounds. The death penalty is a conscious, premeditated form of state killing that is mandated by the law.

    Subramaniam Thirumeni Posted on: Nov 02, 2015

  • Mr Tan’s conclusion that the DP deters is based completely upon his own anecdotal evidence. He provides no empirical evidence to substantiate his claim. However, given the wide-ranging implications of penal policies on real people, such policies must be justified based on concrete criminological data and statistics, rather than on individual personal experience. Especially because the death penalty is the most severe form of punishment, those who seek to impose such a punishment have to justify it. On this front, Mr. Tan has not discharged his burden of proof. In fact, Mr. Tan avoids this responsibility by arguing that even if it is impossible to prove its deterrent effect, the death penalty should still be imposed.

    Even assuming that the death penalty is indeed an effective deterrent, compelling reasons still exist as to why the death penalty should not be imposed.

    What needs to be noted is Mr. Tan is not just suggesting that the offender be punished because of what he has done, but primarily to deter potential criminals. The very crux of deterrence is to punish the offender in order to deter would-be offenders. Essentially, we are punishing the offender to prevent would-be criminals from offending, even though the offender is not personally responsible for crimes committed by these hypothetical criminals. In this respect, we are also punishing the offender for an offence he has not committed, and in which he is “innocent”. But I suspect that Mr. Tan would accept this, since he is willing to run the risk of executing innocent people. In that case, and by extension from the deterrent logic, Mr. Tan must also be prepared to defend and argue that we should consider executing the loved ones of those who commit murder/drug trafficking, since it does not matter that the subject of punishment is not responsible for the crime. Arguably, one might argue that executing the loved ones of the accused might provide an even greater deterrent effect.

    Yet, if we flinch at such a suggestion, it might because we recognize that there are moral limits on punishment.The biggest problem with Mr. Tan’s argument is that he recognizes no such limits on how far we may go to achieve the goal of deterrence. Thus, any such punishment, including the execution of the loved ones of the accused, can be justified on Mr. Tan’s grounds. Perhaps deterrence does not provide an adequate justification after all, unless we are prepared to accept that there are no limits as to how far we may go to achieve the effect of deterrence, and the cost and trade-offs that accompanies it.

    Mr. Tan then goes on to supplement the deterrence argument by arguing that the offender has committed a serious crime and deserves punishment (although as have been noted above, the deterrence argument punishes the offender more so for the crime he is not responsible for). His argument here is confusing. In his opening statement, he makes the argument that “if the maximum punishment (e.g., life imprisonment) is imposed on the murderer, then it should be sufficient punishment to avenge his crime”. But he then concludes that the death penalty should be imposed for such abominable crimes. If deterrence is the deciding factor why the punishment should be death instead of life, then the problems of deterrence in justifying the death penalty that have been highlighted above requires proponents of the death penalty to look for other justifications to support their contention.

    Priscilla Chia Posted on: Nov 02, 2015

  • InIn Kho Jabing’s unique case, the fact that there were disagreements on whether the death sentence was appropriate, not just from ordinary citizens like myself, or law students, or even lawyers, but experienced judges from the appealate court and also the high court should make us examine more carefully the meaning of the term ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. Is it reasonable doubt when it is 33.33%? Some may say yes, some may say no.

    However, this should show that there certainly needs more debate on the application of our laws to understand them, to improve them. Also more deliberations need to be made upon the impact the death penalty has on our community, on families from both sides.

    Mr. Tan asks a few questions in conclusion. I will provide responses to each of them below.

    1) Do most people agree that Singapore is a much safer society than many other similar countries?

    Yes but it would be a mistake to think that it is the sole result of laws like the death penalty.

    2) What is it that makes Singapore a much safer country and society?

    It is more so on the dedication of the public service who serve with the best of their abilities within the functions that the law and public institutions provide. If the death penalty or any other law is replaced, I do not think the dedication of our men and women of the civil service would waver the slightest, therefore it would not diminish the commitment or responsibility of the judiciary or the home team to keep crime at bay.

    3) If Singapore did not have perceived “draconian” measures against drug trafficking, would we end up having a much more serious drug problem?

    Again it is not just the draconian laws which make our society safer from drugs and other crimes which have strong links to social and economic factors. It is simplistic and non-factual to think that the authorities’ efforts in the ongoing protection against drug crimes do not involve connecting or strengthening the communities, to be more resilient from such social ills. Just searching through the official website of the Singapore Police Force on anti-drug efforts and campaigns will confirm this.

    Historically the death penalty is a remnant of a bygone era. An era where the sophistication of research in areas of crime, law, justice, social issues and etcetera, was not available. Where compassion needed to be traded in for the sake of justice.

    Singapore is currently perfectly poised to balance this by expanding our capacity for compassion. In this era, where Singapore seeks to benefit from being a knowledge-based economy which values intellectual capability more than ever before, we certainly have the capacity to seek to replace blunt punishments like the death penalty with sharper, more sensitive ones which take into account their holistic effects within the community and to all parties involved.

    Additionally with the continued dedication of the men and women within our public service, I believe that we can choose life just as Mr Eugene Thuraisingam has proclaimed, to better uphold justice and express compassion for both the individual and society. Is a just society which is also compassionate not for the benefit of all, for both present and for future generations?

    Soe Min Than Posted on: Oct 30, 2015

  • In defense of Kho Jabing’s unique case, the fact that there were disagreements on whether the death sentence was appropriate, not just from ordinary citizens like myself, or law students, or even lawyers, but experienced judge. from the appealate court and also the high court should make us examine the meaning of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. Is it reasonable doubt when it is 33.33%? Some may say yes, some may say no.

    However, there certainly needs more diliberations on the impact the death penalty has on our community, on families from both sides.

    Mr. Tan asks the followi

    Soe Min Than Posted on: Oct 30, 2015

  • Section 300(c) of the Penal Code prescribes that an act is murder “if it is done with the intention of causing bodily injury to any person, and the bodily injury intended to be inflicted is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death”.

    With or without such a definition written down in the Penal Code, the death penalty is in fact the most premeditated form of murder in the world in which each and every step, from the passing of the sentence to the execution itself, is conducted with the intention to end a human life. The only thing that stops many from perceiving it as murder, is the fact that it is carried out with the approval and sponsorship of the state, and in the name of justice. On top of that, there seems to be an automatic acceptance that the existence of a retributive justice system is the only way a society can work to maintain or uphold justice of any kind. Perhaps it is time that we explore the possibility of judicial reform, and make a gradual transformation to having a justice system that is based on the principles of restorative justice.

    I do not agree with the act of killing any criminals, because it is a short cut method of “justice” that has not proven to be a deterrent against crimes, nor does it actually work to solve any social issues leading to the occurrence of crimes. When a crime happens, the focus is often placed on the crime itself rather than factors leading to the crime (e.g., existence of adversity of any kind) which is certainly myopic. There is no place for the death penalty in this day and age, and I strongly believe that it should be abolished.

    Rachel Zeng Posted on: Oct 21, 2015

  • Mr Tan’s opening statement is awful and fraught with major undefendable assumptions and most worryingly for a secular state, repeatedly references religion as a moral benchmark for our secular society.

    Firstly, he takes prisoners’ coping mechanism of caning (braggadocio) at total face value and assumes that it therefore is not a deterrent at all. Come on, it obviously isn’t the case. After being restrained and whipped like an animal, men who are socially conditioned not to display weakness are trying to salvage what little pride they can. To a sensible person, it shouldn’t mean that it automatically makes them completely unafraid of it.

    Secondly, without meaningful substantiation, he repeatedly makes the case that deterrence WILL prevent crime. Firstly, he assumes that Singapore’s low crime rate is automatically due to capital punishment without any causal evidence. He also ignores evidence that everywhere else, deterrent justice systems are less successful in preventing repeat offenses compared to rehabilitation focused systems.

    He also assumes revenge is the best way to make victims feel better (not true).

    Last of all, he assumes the only alternative is life imprisonment

    Bryan Gan Posted on: Oct 14, 2015

  • Mr Thuraisingam makes the better argument here by raising the fact that there is no conclusive evidence that the death penalty has any unique efficacy re: deterrence. Mr Tan strongly believes in the deterrent power of the death penalty, but his support draws almost entirely from anecdotal experience.

    Given the gravity of the situation, I believe that the burden of proof should lie on death penalty advocates to prove that the death penalty is more efficacious than alternative punishments (such as caning and life imprisonment) in order to justify its existence. Mr Thuraisingam rightly points out that this evidence needs to be “clear or reliable” – Mr Tan’s anecdotes are neither, and by failing to meet the standard, vindicates Mr Thuraisingam’s point.

    Nigel Na Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • I am reminded of the expression, “There but for the grace of god go I”. Everyone makes mistakes in their lives, sometimes very serious mistakes, sometimes committed in the heat of the moment or due to other circumstances, but no-one is beyond reform and rehabilitation. The playing field is not level at birth, and some of us commit a foul whilst engaging in the game of life, for which we deserve to get sent off the playing field to the side line while we reflect on our actions and make improvements. But it is not a reason to turn out the lights. Even the referee may make an error in calling the foul and only later utilising new scientific advancements does that error become apparent. To argue for abolishing the death penalty is not an argument that there should be no punishment. Incarceration and removal from society, potentially for a lengthy period, is a strong and appropriate punishment. Imprisonment and the loss of privacy, liberty and opportunity, having to watch as the world goes by without you, is a powerful disincentive to commit crime. It serves the purpose of retribution for the victim. There are studies which show that adding the death penalty to the punishment regime does not add to crime deterrence. Indeed we live in a relatively safe environment, and long may it remain so, but there are several possible explanations for this, and no certainty that it is due to the presence of the death penalty. It is time for society to show its humanity.

    Bill Bowman Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • I believe in the equal value of every human life, and that means a person is no less valuable in existing just because they committed a crime, no matter how grievous it might be. Every person is entitled to the opportunity to receive forgiveness from those whom he or she has hurt or brought pain to, as well as the chance to mend his or her ways — be it in spending the rest of his/her life in prison or part of it inside and part outside.

    Many a prison volunteer can attest to countless stories of prisoners on death row who have experienced true repentance and were at peace with themselves before being sent to the gallows. The lives of these men and women could have been saved and spent more fruitfully, contributing to society.

    Indeed it can be argued they may still be dangerous, so it may be more worthwhile to monitor their progress, and should they really repeat their crimes, lock them away for the rest of their lives — no matter what happens, snuffing out a life makes no sense and has little proven deterrent effect against serious crime either.

    Jeanette Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • Call me the naive idealist but my reasons for wanting the death penalty abolished are simple.

    They presuppose a fundamental humanistic instinct inherent in all human beings, which is the valuing of human life. Human life has worth and dignity, be that of the aristocrat or the pauper, the bourgeoisie or the proletariat and as such the taking away of human life is antithetical to eudaimonia, or human flourishing. This includes the murder of an apparent criminal by the judiciary.

    Punitive justice to me is not justice in the truest sense of the word as two wrongs in this case will not make a right. It only renders shameless the legal system and its enforcers.

    Benjamin Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • I have not seen any research on the effect of of the death penalty and crime rates in Singapore.

    The late Father G Arotcarena who spent many years administering to prisoners and looking after the welfare of ex offenders had this to say about death row inmates and the death penalty:

    “I can testify that, in most of these men, something human remained which only needed to be revived and maintained. The death penalty is nothing but an act of vengeance. It has nothing to do with justice. It lowers the society that imposes it, bringing it to the level of the criminals against whom it uses the sentence, supposedly to protect itself. As Confucius said: “He who gives way to vengeance digs two graves: one for his enemy and the other for himself.” The Singapore government would do itself proud if it abolished the death penalty. Unfortunately, it has not reached that point yet.” I am optimistic that the death penalty will be abolished one day.

    Teo Soh Lung Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • I support the abolition of the death penalty in Singapore because the benefits to society are far outweighed by the associated risks.

    As Mr. Tan indicates, the main benefit of the death penalty is its deterrent potential. But logically, the death penalty only deters those who do not fear the next harshest punishment. In Singapore, it would deter only those criminals who do not fear life in prison, but who fear an earlier death. Surely this cannot be all (or even most) criminals?

    Against this, we must set the real risk of executing an undeserving person, which has been dealt with in detail by previous commentators.

    Mr Tan believes it is more likely for a person to be killed on the roads than for an innocent person to be hanged. That is not the comparison we should make. We should instead ask: Can we, in good conscience, trade the risk of executing undeserving human beings for the narrow slice of deterrence the death penalty adds to our justice system? My personal answer is no.

    Qabir Sandhu Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • “I understand there are usually about two dozen witnesses to these executions and I sometimes wonder about those who will be at mine, unknown, faceless men rooting for me to die, happy to see me breathe my last breath. I wonder about men who do not know me, have never met me, never broken bread with me and who know nothing about what’s in my heart, who nonetheless are anxious, eager, happy to see me die.
    It does not bother me, but I wonder if it will ever bother any of those men (and yes, it’s almost always men, with their lust for blood; women seldom indulge in this), perhaps in their sunset years when they reflect back on their youth and wonder about their imperatives. I hope, for their sakes, that one day they will be ashamed — or at least disappointed — with their naked blood lust and will determine to henceforth set a better example for those following behind them.” -William Van Poyck, executed June 12, 2013 in the US

    By directly participating in the execution process, prison workers have to face the moral implications of knowingly participating in the act of killing another human being. At the same time, those responsible for carrying out the execution do not have the benefit of having heard all evidence presented at the trial. Many times the doubt of the condemned person’s guilt is a heavy burden on the consciences of those that have to perform the execution.

    “If you let the judge be the executioner, I think he would give a second thought about sending somebody to be executed.” -Jerry Givens, retired Executioner, Virginia Department of Corrections.
    “There is nothing commonplace about walking a healthy young man to a room, strapping him into a chair, and coldly, methodically killing him.” -Donald Cabana, former Warden, Mississippi State Penitentiary.

    It is a false assumption to think that in the body’s mode of “flight or fight”, when adrenaline hormones are being pumped throughout the body for aggressive, vigorous action, that we are able to pause and think about our fate calmly, about what constitutes manslaughter, grievous hurt, or maybe to check with a lawyer. Plea bargaining in drugs cases here assumes that all couriers, lowest level members in syndicates know enough for “substantively assisting in CNB’s operations to disrupt drug trafficking activities within or outside of Singapore”.

    On the definitions of retribution and revenge, it may be defined differently depending on where the terms are used. However if you look at psychological studies, revenge is called the psychology of retribution. In studies related to perceptions of justice, feelings of revenge have been specifically addressed. They reveal what is called the “revenge paradox” and that “rather than providing closure, [taking our revenge] does the opposite: It keeps the wound open and fresh”.
    Some scientists believe that revenge is a primitive instinct that has been left over from the days of our early ancestors during their struggle for survival as tribes. Additionally that the human race later developed, a forgiveness instinct “that enables people to suppress the desire for revenge and signal their willingness to continue on, even though someone has harmed their interests, assuming the person will refrain from doing so again in the future” (Michael McCullough, PhD, Professor of Psychology at the University of Miami).

    In the April 2011 issue of the European Journal of Social Psychology a study showed that “If the message (the offender’s recognizing of his wrongdoing) is not delivered, it cannot re-establish justice” (Mario Gollwitzer, psychological scientist). This suggests that it is not the form of punishment but the effect of a punishment producing guilt for the offender, as being more valuable to victims of wrongdoing. Therefore capital punishment need not be the only ‘worthy’ punishment for the most violent/serious crimes in relating to the victim’s loved ones, or the victim’s interest. It is another false assumption to think that the victim would want another’s life to be taken away from another family, from another loved one.

    All of the above suggest that justice can be better achieved if the punishment manages to balance the revenge instinct (knowledge of wrongdoer’s guilt) with the forgiveness instinct (on condition that the wrongdoer has reformed). The simplest of generalisations is to kill the worst wrongdoers of our time, and those who remain living will be safe, better for it. However can we still afford such simplistic thinking by ignoring the rigorous but worthy exercise of ethics and ethical standards? Can we still truly believe that a person who ends up on death row is the only one that suffers? What about the family and loved ones, such as children? What is the real social impact of killing prisoners? The executed can no longer commit future wrongdoing to society just as surely as the murder victim can no longer contribute to society. However what is the real cost of giving death to a prisoner, which also renders him/her no longer able to contribute, versus life imprisonment, which still allows some contribution to society (at the very minimum to their families, or prison community)?

    The state takes on the responsibility, and its civil servants carry out the deed, from arrest, prosecution, judgement to execution. Moreover, it is for the sake of the rest of us, for our safety, for society. The state should rightly lay out the real costs of capital punishment. Comprehensive studies should focus on the effects, to the families of victims lost to violent crime, to families of those executed, to health of death row prison staff, to rate of violent crime, to rate of drug offenses, to mental state of death row prisoners in last days leading up to time of execution and to other relevant social factors. The question of why the death penalty did not deter those who committed the crime also needs to be explicitly addressed. An extensive review of other alternative policies practiced in other states and to explicitly state which ones may/ may not be suitable here and why, is also needed.

    Without such information to review before deciding to take a human life seems grossly unethical. All this would have been impossible undertakings 50 years ago during the time of our earlier generation of pioneering leaders but very manageable now in this modern age of research and shared global knowledge systems. Such research and knowledge would also be greatly valued regardless of the findings and Singapore may be better poised and also in urgent need for such comprehensive studies than any other nation due to its population density and limited land mass.

    Soe Min Than Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • It is inhuman to kill another person whatever the reason is. We must not be murderers ourselves.

    I disagree that the reason of death penalty is to deter offender. Most likely he’ll be in jail under the highest security.

    I disagree that the reason of death penalty is to deter others doing heinous crimes. Why must someone be punished to death, to deter something that may or may not be done in the future, moreover by others?

    Since Mr Tan Peng Chin mentioned the Roman Catholic, it forbids killing another person. It’s stated in the Ten Commandments.

    Handaya Rusli Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • I’m against the death penalty due to how it has falsely killed so many people worldwide due to racial (and other) bias. Studies also suggest that it takes more money to send someone to hang than it does to keep them imprisoned forever. The death penalty is also proven to not be a deterrent for crime so much that it is an easy way out for criminals who’d rather die than be imprisoned indefinitely. Also it’s unfair in other ways: sending someone who killed one person to hang vs the same punishment for someone who killed fifteen. They say someone forfeits their right to life when they kill but if they killed fifteen times we can’t kill them fifteen times over, can we? Also it’s plain cruel and medieval to kill people for drug trafficking.

    Drima Chakraborty Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • 1. Simply read Mhd Kadar v PP [2011] SGCA 32 and any fantasies about 200% certainty will be immediately dispelled. What emerges is shocking, to say the least.

    2. If prison life is “hard, meaningless and demoralising”, surely life imprisonment is an effective deterrent.

    3. Who are we really punishing by executing people? I submit it is their family members who effectively, have to endure their relative being legally killed by the State. Why should they be punished instead of the offender having to spend a lifetime reflecting on his crime, apart from society?

    4. Mr Tan touches only on violent crime. What about death penalty for drug mules? His eye for an eye rationale holds no sway here.

    5. Most developed countries have abolished the death penalty. Why?

    Has the lack of executions for the past 50 years resulted in increased crime rates in places like Scandanavia, which enjoys comparable crime rates with Singapore? No.

    It does not effectively deter non-premeditated crime.

    Jared Dass Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • There is no simply convincing evidence that harsher penalties deter crime. In 2012 by a committee of the American National Academy of Sciences National Review Council reviewed 34 years of research on the death penalty and homicide in the US and concluded that “it is impossible to draw credible findings about the effect of the death penalty on homicide”. With – literally – life and death at stake, it is heinously irresponsible and unethical to continue killing human beings on such a shaky foundation.

    Jolene Tan Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • Mr Tan Peng Chin argued that the courts would never impose the death penalty upon someone unless they were 200% sure of his/her guilt. How does he reconcile this 200% confidence with cases where there are dissenting judgements? As Mr Thuraisingam pointed out, there was a dissenting judge in Took Leng How’s case – yet he was executed anyway. As I write this Sarawakian Kho Jabing is sitting on death row even though two out of the five judges on the Court of Appeal bench felt he should not be sentenced to death. Unanimous decisions are not required in Singapore for the death sentence to be imposed or upheld – how is this the overwhelming confidence that Mr Tan described?

    Kirsten Han Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • Both Kho Jabing and Khaddar case shows the resilience and impartiality of the court system in Singapore for the severity of imposing the death penalty.
    The facts of the cases are clear in which the perpetrators are identified.
    In regards to the mens rear argument by critics, it would be better as a considered judgement by the panel rather than the chorus of anti death penalty activists.
    Furthermore, for heinous crimes against children or even serial murderers, it is blatant injustice for the victims or families of such victims to know that such perpetrators remain among them, yet at times, the dismissive arguments and ridicule heaped by such activists are beyond the pale.

    Wang Posted on: Nov 02, 2015

  • Although I am in agreement with TPC’s argument that the death penalty should continue to be imposed, but only “for the very heinous crimes or crimes that cause tremendous harm to society so that criminals or potential criminals will be deterred from committing such crimes” I would like to say that the questions raised by him in the concluding part of his post have little or no bearing in serving as arguments for his stance against the motion for the debate.

    1) Do most people agree that Singapore is a much safer society than many other similar countries?

    Singapore may be a safer society compared with some other countries but the issue of safety may have nothing to do with the fact that the death penalty is a feature of its laws.

    2) If Singapore did not have perceived “draconian” measures against drug trafficking, would we end up having a much more serious drug problem?

    How can we ever provide a meaningful answer without relevant statistics or from past experience, from both sides of the line?

    Countries without the death penalty – do they have higher cases of drug trafficking compared with Singapore? Even if the answer is Yes, other factors, besides the death penalty, may be involved. If the answer is No, does it support the argument that the death penalty is a reason for the lower incidence of drug trafficking? The answer is a resounding NO, as there may be a diversity of factors or reasons.

    Regrettably, both debaters seem to have disregarded the comments posted in the comments section. Nothing specific was raised about pointers made by observers to the debate.

    Richard Woo Posted on: Nov 01, 2015

  • Eugene: I choose life… because the sanctity of life is not something we can take upon ourselves to violate.

    Eugene’s assertion “the sanctity of life is not something we can take upon ourselves to violate” leaves the avenue open for further discussion or debate.

    What does he mean by “sanctity of life”? Is he talking of human life or any kind of life? OK, let’s assume he is referring to human life – and my question is: What about non-human life, say, the cow, the pig, the chicken, etc? And why should only human life be considered sanctimonious, if the term “sanctity” cannot and should not apply to non-human life? Is Eugene connected to a certain religiosity and takes the view that people are made in God’s image and that human life has an inherently sacred attribute that should be protected and respected at all times? If he thinks that sanctity is applicable to human life only, is such thinking based on his religious upbringing? What justification can he provide for thinking that non-human life, unlike human life, is not sanctimonious?

    In his opening statement Eugene has made the claim that it is wrong to kill another person but here he is clearly offering the justification that it is not wrong for a policeman shooting and killing an armed criminal intent on committing mass murder. He says: “…with a known criminal armed with an automatic rifle, there is no doubt that he will commit mass murder if he is not stopped. This — the certainty of harm that will be caused — is the fundamental difference between the state condoning the killing of a person facing the death penalty and the policeman killing an armed criminal with the intention to commit mass murder.”

    Here, Eugene seems to have taken the position that there is no doubt that the armed criminal would kill if he is not killed first; prevention [or deterrence?] is better than cure, as most of us might agree. But how can he justify his certainty that the criminal in question would commit mass murder if left alone? Of course, one has to factor in all relevant factors, to justify one’s actions or thoughts. Can we argue there is a chance that the armed criminal may not commit mass murder if left alone? Appearances alone can be deceptive. However, we can never tell, for sure. So, we may still argue that killing the criminal in the circumstances may be justified, to obviate the risks of him killing other people. If Eugene accepts that it is not wrong in the policeman killing the criminal, in the scenario we have described, then Eugene has to admit that it is not wrong to kill another person – where there is ethical or legal justification for doing so; hence he should now admit that he has made an error of judgment in saying in his opening statement that it is wrong to kill another person.

    Eugene’s concluding comment: “In conclusion, I highlight that the rights and wrongs of the death penalty have been debated over many decades and there is still no clear universal stance taken on it. Perhaps there will never be a universal stance taken, and if so, in the face of such moral dilemma, I say we should always choose life.”

    It is clear: Eugene may choose life while others may prefer death over life.

    Regrettably, both debaters seem to have disregarded the comments posted in the comments section. Nothing specific was raised about pointers made by observers to the debate.

    Richard Woo Posted on: Nov 01, 2015

  • In the case of Kho Jabing which Ms Kirsten Han refers to in her comments in favour of abolishing the death penalty, it was not in doubt that Jabing attempted to rob the deceased, and struck him in the head *at least* twice with a piece of wood without provocation or notice, and with great violence, fracturing the skull. I would have concluded that the death penalty was an appropriate punishment in that case on any view of the facts.

    Yeoh Lian Chuan Posted on: Oct 26, 2015

  • The death sentence should not be abolished, but should only be used on the worst of crimes, because there will always be crimes so heinous and criminals so unrepentant that the best way to deal with them is to execute them.

    From a moral perspective, using massive amounts of public resources to keep such criminals alive would be immoral – why make everyone work harder just so these people can stay alive?

    Also, is it moral to cause the criminal decades of suffering, locked away in prison? If your answer to that is to make prison life good enough so that criminals don’t experience suffering, then is it moral for law-abiding, tax-paying citizens to fund a good life for a criminal?

    From a utilitarian perspective, executing such a criminal would be the moral choice. Good citizens suffer less by not having to fund his imprisonment with their tax dollars, and the criminal suffers less by not having to go through decades of prison life.

    The only alternative I see is if they somehow turn prison into some form of labour camp where the prisoners are put to work to generate equal or greater economic gain that it costs to imprison them – then I would be in support of keeping them alive.

    Chris Posted on: Oct 21, 2015

  • I believe when Mr Thuraisingam suggests that “If we cannot and do not even begin to understand why we are here and where we came from…, then we cannot claim the power to take it away”, it weakens his case. In the first place, those who support keeping the death penalty are not necessarily claiming divine mandate.

    If we follow his argument, then a logical outworking would be that neither can an individual/society claim to know what is ultimately right or wrong, good or evil? If we are uncertain and confused about the purpose/meaning of life, then who or where do we turn to for an objective basis of morality? Interestingly enough, Mr Thuraisingam began with an assertion that “killing another person is wrong” but fail to explain the basis for his moral claim.

    We all desire a society that rightly tempers justice with mercy. Often, the death penalty has been mistaken to be a blunt, cruel instrument of justice. But before we remove it, one should consider its purpose. Would a life sentence suffice for certain heinous crimes? Is justice upheld when the State has to channel resources to care for unrepentant mass murderers? Why is living behind bars more merciful than a death penalty?

    Edwin Wong Posted on: Oct 16, 2015

  • Agreed with the views of Mr Tan Peng Chin

    a) Considering the safeguards presently in place, the factual circumstances especially in the light of DNA evidence leaves little room for doubt for the facts in any death penalty case.
    b) the calls for abolishment ignores the cries of the victims of the crimes especially the families and the children of such crimes.
    c) it is a double injustice that the cries for abolishment only views it from the case of the perpetrators who unless due to actual documented and verified cases of coercion (which case manslaughter may be considered), the death penalty should be imposed.
    d) the abolishment of such severe judicial penalties will leave even more the cases of possibly worse crimes being committed and the families and children of such crimes being made to suffer more since they are aware that the perpetrators of such crimes remain among them in present day Singapore

    Respectfully

    Wang Posted on: Oct 16, 2015

  • In war, people are killed, soldiers are killed. In peacetime, there is also a war which is the war against crime. The ultimate victory against heinous crimes is to kill the criminal, and in doing so the offence is taken away and evened out and the society will have peace.

    If you let the troublemakers against peace in the society to live, you are not doing justice to the society at large. The criminals will be emboldened, seeing that they can kill, traffick drugs and if they are caught, they will not be punished by death since the law of the society is weak against them.

    Hardcore criminals are the cancer of the society which must be rid of. If you have cancer in the body, will you let it grow or kill it before it affect the whole body? Will you be merciful to the cancer in the body and let it spread?

    To rid the society of its cancerous living cells — that is criminals or offenders who committed heinous crimes, these cancerous living cells of the society must be sentenced from being alive in the society. It is medically right to do so for benefit of all the ‘good’ people.

    Mike Posted on: Oct 15, 2015

  • Our justice system shows more sympathy for criminals than it does victims. It’s time we put the emphasis of our criminal justice system back on protecting the victim rather than the accused. Remember, a person who’s on death row has almost always committed crimes before this. A long line of victims have been waiting for justice. We need justice for current and past victims.

    It provides a deterrent for prisoners already serving a life sentence. What about people already sentenced to life in prison. What’s to stop them from murdering people constantly while in prison? What are they going to do–extend their sentences? Sure, they can take away some prison privileges, but is this enough of a deterrent to stop the killing? What about a person sentenced to life who happens to escape? What’s to stop him from killing anyone who might try to bring him in or curb his crime spree?

    DNA testing and other methods of modern crime scene science can now effectively eliminate almost all uncertainty as to a person’s guilt or innocence. One of the biggest arguments against the death penalty is the possibility of error. Sure, we can never completely eliminate all uncertainty, but nowadays, it’s about as close as you can get. DNA testing is over 99 percent effective. And even if DNA testing and other such scientific methods didn’t exist, the trial and appeals process is so thorough it’s next to impossible to convict an innocent person. Remember, a jury of 12 members must unanimously decide there’s not even a reasonable doubt the person is guilty. The number of innocent people that might somehow be convicted is no greater than the number of innocent victims of the murderers who are set free.

    Joseph Posted on: Oct 14, 2015

  • The death penalty gives closure to the victim’s families who have suffered so much. Some family members of crime victims may take years or decades to recover from the shock and loss of a loved one. Some may never recover. One of the things that helps hasten this recovery is to achieve some kind of closure. Life in prison just means the criminal is still around to haunt the victim. A death sentence brings finality to a horrible chapter in the lives of these family members.

    It creates another form of crime deterrent. Crime would run rampant as never before if there wasn’t some way to deter people from committing the acts. Prison time is an effective deterrent, but with some people, more is needed. Prosecutors should have the option of using a variety of punishments in order to minimize crime.

    Justice is better served. The most fundamental principle of justice is that the punishment should fit the crime. When someone plans and brutally murders another person, doesn’t it make sense that the punishment for the perpetrator also be death?

    Dany Posted on: Oct 14, 2015

  • There is still a place for the death penalty today, if and only if, it is carried out against perpetrators of the most severe and vicious of crimes and only when it coheres with the wider society’s inherent sense of justice.

    And if the death penalty can prevent a murderer from murdering again, that will result in innocent lives saved.

    Besides deterrence and prevention, the death penalty also affords some form of rehabilitation: The fear of death is a psychological burden for most and it is in this finality of the outcome that some form of rehabilitation can take place.

    Examples of people on death row taking the opportunity to repent and make amends are plentiful, even though the criminal cannot be rehabilitated and returned to polite society.

    And this karmic argument also coheres with society’s sometimes wonky sense of justification where the belief is that bad things happen to bad people. And hence, the contrary holds that good things must happen to good people.

    It might not straighten the bad person out, but it keeps the good on the straight and narrow. And there is no evidence for this, because one cannot reason from things that did not happen.

    Belmont Lay Posted on: Oct 14, 2015

  • My position is one that does not support the total abolition of the death penalty. I take the view that the death penalty should continue to be imposed but only for crimes of such gravity that without imposing the death penalty there is no question of justice being served. No one should be allowed to escape the death penalty if they have [1] committed murder or mass murder [2] raped or tortured resulting in the death of their human victim[s] [3] killed a human or some humans under contract killing. This list is not exhaustive of course and can be expanded to include other crimes of similar gravity or severity.

    UN rights experts have recently issued a warning that “executions for drug crimes amount to a violation of international law and are unlawful killings.” And it is heartening to note that Singapore has made some changes to the law concerning the death penalty so that it is no longer mandatory and judges in court trials are now given some leeway to consider whether something less than capital punishment is warranted in the circumstances.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment_by_country
    As of July 2015, of the 196 independent states that are UN members or have UN observer status:
    102 have abolished it for all crimes;
    7 have abolished it, but retain it for exceptional or special circumstances (such as crimes committed in wartime);
    50 retain it, but have not used it for at least 10 years or are under a moratorium;
    37 retain it in both law and practice.

    Tan Peng Chin [TPC] has argued principally on “deterrent” as a factor supporting his position for maintaining the death penalty. For one thing, the death penalty has been a part of Singapore’s criminal justice system for so long; but has it really deterred crimes from being committed? Can the number of people sentenced to death over the last 80 years, say, be indicative of its effectiveness? We can never really tell, whether the number can be considered significant or not. A high figure can be interpreted as a case of the death penalty being ineffective, while a low figure can be seen as lending support to its effectiveness. But what sort of baseline or standard should one use to determine what is high or low? Nothing of substance can emanate from there, I suppose. There are too many issues to consider.

    Elsewhere, in other places, in some US cities, for example, it was found that some cities practicing the death penalty were having high crime rates compared with other US cities with death penalty but having low crime rates.

    This assertion of TPC seems self-defeating: “Many of us who have never been imprisoned before cannot imagine how hard, meaningless and demoralising prison life can be. Even though all of us believe that life is precious, very few appreciate what a living hell life imprisonment can be. Some proponents against the death penalty seem to forget that sooner or later, all of us will die.” If prison life is so bad or so hellish, why should we bother with capital punishment?

    Another assertion of TPC: “I was a volunteer with the Roman Catholic Prison Ministry for many years, and based on my interaction with many prisoners, including hardcore criminals, I have concluded that the only punishment that criminals are afraid of, is the death penalty.”

    The prisoners who expressed such a sentiment had probably not considered the consequences of their actions that could plausibly lead to capital punishment; if they had weighed and considered, then they should have no reason to be talking like that, after the fact.

    Eugene says: “To kill another person is wrong. Why should that be any different when killing takes place in the name of the state?”

    Killing another person is not always wrong, however. How could it be held to be wrong if, say, A killed B in self-defense? B would have killed A if A had not acted in self-defense. In a war there is no question of wrong or right; you kill your foe or your foe will kill you.

    Let’s consider this assertion of Eugene: “We cannot and do not even begin to understand why we are here and where we came from. If we cannot even answer where life comes from, how on earth can we claim the power to take it away?”

    We may not have the answer to why we are here or where we came from, but we have the intelligence in putting in place a justice system for the purpose of providing safety, protection and social order to the community as a whole. And the power to forfeit, say, the life of a person is one that is conferred under the aforesaid justice system, which arose through a collective decision. As the death penalty was the result of a collective decision at institutional level, it can be abolished through a decision exercised similarly.

    Of course, miscarriages of justice have occurred – involving the death penalty or otherwise. There is no way we can restore a person’s life once that person has been put to death. The greatest reason for abolishing the death penalty is the plausibility of committing an error of judgment by holding someone guilty when that person is in fact innocent and then sentencing the person to death. And that’s why type 1 errors are taboo to those administering punishment.

    Richard Woo Posted on: Oct 14, 2015

  • In the same vein or rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s… If you choose to live in Singapore, you cannot choose not to abide by its laws. Stop comparing with other countries. Speak and act for what is relevant in this country you choose to call home.

    Sheldon Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • PRO: “Society is justly ordered when each person receives what is due to him. Crime disturbs this just order, for the criminal takes from people their lives, peace, liberties, and worldly goods in order to give himself undeserved benefits. Deserved punishment protects society morally by restoring this just order, making the wrongdoer pay a price equivalent to the harm he has done. This is retribution, not to be confused with revenge, which is guided by a different motive. In retribution the spur is the virtue of indignation, which answers injury with injury for public good… Retribution is the primary purpose of just punishment as such… [R]ehabilitation, protection, and deterrence have a lesser status in punishment than retribution.”
    The crimes of rape, torture, treason, kidnapping, murder, larceny, and perjury pivot on a moral code that escapes apodictic [indisputably true] proof by expert testimony or otherwise. But communities would plunge into anarchy if they could not act on moral assumptions less certain than that the sun will rise in the east and set in the west. Abolitionists may contend that the death penalty is inherently immoral because governments should never take human life, no matter what the provocation. But that is an article of faith, not of fact. The death penalty honors human dignity by treating the defendant as a free moral actor able to control his own destiny for good or for ill; it does not treat him as an animal with no moral sense

    Zeus Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • In a larger sense, capital punishment is the ultimate warning against all crimes. If the criminal knows that the justice system will not stop at putting him to death, then the system appears more draconian to him. Not all, but many criminals who ride the fence on committing murder ultimately decide to spare the victim’s life.
    A system in place for the purpose of granting justice cannot do so for the surviving victims, unless the murderer himself is put to death.
    The justice system basically attempts to mete out punishment that fits the crime. Severe crimes result in imprisonment. ”Petty larceny” is not treated with the severity that is meted to “grand theft auto,” and the latter, consequently, receives more time in prison. So if severe—but non-lethal—violence toward another is found deserving of life without parole, then why should premeditated homicide be given the very same punishment? This fact might induce a would-be criminal to go ahead and kill the victim he has already mugged and crippled. Why would it matter, after all? His sentence could not get any worse.If murder is the willful deprivation of a victim’s right to life, then the justice system’s willful deprivation of the criminal’s right to the same is—even if overly severe—a punishment which fits the most severe crime that can be committed. Without capital punishment, it could be argued that the justice system makes no provision in response to the crime of murder, and thus provides no justice for the victim.

    Archie tan Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • First a reminder of the basic argument behind retribution and punishment:

    all guilty people deserve to be punished
    only guilty people deserve to be punished
    guilty people deserve to be punished in proportion to the severity of their crime
    This argument states that real justice requires people to suffer for their wrongdoing, and to suffer in a way appropriate for the crime. Each criminal should get what their crime deserves and in the case of a murderer what their crime deserves is death

    Life imprisonment without parole does not protects society adequately. The offender may no longer be a danger to the public, but he remains a danger to prison staff and other inmates. Execution would remove that danger.

    Plea bargaining is used in most countries. It’s the process through which a criminal gets a reduced sentence in exchange for providing help to the police.

    Where the possible sentence is death, the prisoner has the strongest possible incentive to try to get their sentence reduced.

    Boris Lee Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

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Mr Eugene Thuraisingam

Yes

27th October 2015

I choose life. I choose to not be afraid of a world without the death penalty and what that may or may not entail, because the sanctity of life is not something we can take upon ourselves to violate. That, I believe, is the fundamental difference between my learned friend’s stance and mine.

1) In my learned friend’s response to my opening statement, he raised two main points as follows:First, he argued that not all kinds of killings are wrong. In this regard, he raised several hypotheticals, questioning for instance, whether it would be wrong for a policeman to shoot and kill a known criminal who is armed with an automatic rifle and has the intent to cause mass murder.

2) Second, my learned friend drew a parallel between the death of an innocent person who has been wrongly convicted and the death of a patient at the hands of a surgeon who makes a mistake. He then asked whether I would argue that since our medical system is imperfect, we should also stop doctors from practising medicine.

With respect, my learned friend has presented a false equivalence in both instances.

1st false equivalence

My learned friend accepts that no justice system created and administered by human beings can be perfect. With this, he must accept that there is a possibility of error even with our highly respected bench of judges.

Therefore, there is a chance that an accused person may be wrongfully convicted and face the death penalty. On the other hand, with a known criminal armed with an automatic rifle, there is no doubt that he will commit mass murder if he is not stopped. This — the certainty of harm that will be caused — is the fundamental difference between the state condoning the killing of a person facing the death penalty and the policeman killing an armed criminal with the intention to commit mass murder.

Further, with an accused person standing trial for murder or drug trafficking, any alleged harm caused would already have been done. Killing therefore takes place for the purpose of deterring someone from committing the same act in some indeterminable future. On the other hand, with an armed criminal, the harm that he might cause will be immediate if he is not stopped. Shooting the armed criminal therefore takes place for the paramount reason of saving lives.

2nd false equivalence

When a doctor makes a mistake in diagnosis or accidentally prescribes the wrong treatment, he has no intention to cause death. If he intended to do so, he would be charged with murder. On the other hand, a judge that sentences someone to the death penalty is intentionally causing death to that person. It is therefore a fallacy to equate the two scenarios.

Recent case of Koh Bak Kiang (“Koh”)

In a recent decision by the Chief Justice that was reported in the Singapore Law Watch on 9 October 2015, Koh’s conviction for two charges of trafficking 14.99 grams of diamorphine was set aside as Koh did not know the particular nature of the drug that he was trafficking.

For Koh to be convicted of trafficking diamorphine, he had to know that he was trafficking diamorphine (and not simply a drug that carried the death penalty in general). Koh’s charges of trafficking diamorphine were replaced with the lesser charges of trafficking in a Class A controlled drug other than diamorphine. Koh’s sentence was reduced from 25 years to 13 years imprisonment. This took place eight years after Koh had been convicted of the original charge of trafficking 14.99 grams of diamorphine.

If Koh had been charged with trafficking 15.00 grams (as opposed to 14.99 grams) of diamorphine and was convicted on those charges, he would have been executed pursuant to the mandatory death penalty. There was no way his wrongful conviction could have been reversed.

My learned friend opines that the injustices that may occur in other legal systems will not occur in Singapore due to the integrity, impartiality and high standards of our law enforcement officers, prosecutors and judges. As a lawyer, I have the greatest respect for the law and Singapore’s legal system. However, this does not detract from the imperfectness of any justice system, which my learned friend accepts.

A judge is limited by the evidence that is placed before him. He is also, in some ways, limited by how counsels run their cases before him. Further, while my learned friend takes the view that a judge would not convict an accused person unless he is “200% sure” of the accused person’s guilt. That argument ignores the standard of proof in the practice of law.

This point becomes readily apparent in drug trafficking cases. The presumption under the Misuse of Drugs Act provides that once an accused person is found to have been in physical possession of certain drugs, the accused person bears the burden of proving on a balance of probabilities that he did not know nature of the drug.

What this means is that unless the accused person can show that there is more than a 50% chance that he did not know the nature of the drug, the judge has to convict him. The judge is not entitled to apply his own test and standard of proof.

In conclusion, I highlight that the rights and wrongs of the death penalty have been debated over many decades and there is still no clear universal stance taken on it. Perhaps there will never be a universal stance taken, and if so, in the face of such moral dilemma, I say we should always choose life.

Mr Tan Peng Chin

No

27th October 2015

In his response, Mr Thuraisingam mentioned that I made three arguments in support of the death penalty. I will address the points he made here.

First, that Singapore’s justice system is such that it is impossible for an innocent person to be wrongly convicted.

I had stated in my reply that “no justice system created and administered by human beings can be perfect. It can only try its very best to do the right things — which is to protect society and the people who live in that society.”

In my opening statement, I had stated that “it is more likely for a person to be killed on the roads, than for an innocent person to be hanged”. Just as I do not believe that it is possible to have completely safe roads, I also realise that it is impossible for judges not to make mistakes. They are only human.

But like everything else in life, we have to take calculated risks, like the risk of going for surgery. I’m prepared to bet in favour of the death penalty for the very heinous crimes or crimes that cause tremendous harm to society so that criminals or potential criminals will be deterred from committing such crimes.

Second, Mr Thuraisingam states that I believe the death penalty is neither cruel nor inhumane, because the cruelty of the death penalty is matched by the cruelty the criminals themselves imposed on their victims. This is not what I said. Having counselled and made friends with prisoners who were previously on death row, I believe I fully appreciate the torturous experience of being on death row.

What I had stated in my opening statement and the point I wanted to make is that, as a matter of fact, there are many more traumatic and painful ways of dying, e.g., from cancer or from drug addiction or overdose, and many victims of murder are killed in the most gruesome manner.

I am not in any way suggesting that because criminals have behaved cruelly towards their victims, they should also be punished in the same cruel fashion. If you were to re-read my opening statement, in terms of punishing the offender so that the victim will feel that his suffering has been avenged, I had argued that so long as the maximum penalty (e.g., life imprisonment) is imposed on the murderer, that should be sufficient punishment to avenge his crime. My support for the death penalty for a very limited number of very serious crimes is definitely not predicated on the “eye for an eye, or tooth for a tooth” kind of justice!

My learned friend is however absolutely correct in saying that I believe the death penalty is the only punishment hardcore criminals are afraid of, and it is necessary, to deter criminals from committing the most heinous crimes. This belief is derived from and based on more than seven years of having visited Changi Prison once a week and interacting with prisoners who have committed all kinds of crimes.

Mr Thuraisingam had said that it is morally objectionable for a person to be subjected to death in order to deter the public from the person’s offence. Mr Thuraisingam forgets that the criminal is being punished because, in the first place, he had committed a very serious crime. Modern society will no longer tolerate “killing a chicken just to frighten the monkey”.

Let’s say we had a society where men habitually gang rape, torture and then murder women and children. Would it be wrong to impose the death penalty for such crimes, even if it is impossible to prove that the death penalty will deter most of such criminals? My position is that even if we believe that only 10% or 5% of potential criminals may be deterred by the death penalty, capital punishment should be imposed for such abominable crimes.

My learned friend also argued that the death penalty should not apply to drug offenders, who cannot be said to cause harm equivalent to their deaths by hanging. In my view, a drug trafficker, who is a wholesaler of drugs, kills more people and destroys more families than a mere murderer. Furthermore, there is no doubt that these killings, though indirect, are premeditated and committed purely for monetary gains.

I fully appreciate that this is a very controversial and emotional topic to debate, and it is only right that sensible and sensitive human beings would instinctively abhor the killing of their fellow men.

But unfortunately we live in an imperfect world and sometimes, extreme measures are required to ensure that society remains safe.

I would conclude by simply asking:

1) Do most people agree that Singapore is a much safer society than many other similar countries?

2) What is it that makes Singapore a much safer country and society?

3) If Singapore did not have perceived “draconian” measures against drug trafficking, would we end up having a much more serious drug problem?

comments

  • The unavailability of statistics cripples this debate from the outset. For those that support the death penalty, a key proposition is deterrence. However, our state has been opaque in making statistics available to the public. Until there is clear evidence of a link between the death penalty and the corresponding crime rate for offences punishable by death, the deterrence argument will remain an instinctive conjecture. We might be assisted by statistical studies from other jurisdictions where data is readily available. In 2009, a study was published in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology entitled, “Do Executions lower Homicide Rates: The Views of Leading Criminologists?” This study adopted the methodology of surveying leading Criminologists in the USA. The assumption being made is that their views have been conditioned by their own empirical research. The study revealed that overall 94% agreed that there was little empirical evidence to support the deterrent effect of the death penalty.
    I support the abolition of the death penalty purely on moral grounds. The death penalty is a conscious, premeditated form of state killing that is mandated by the law.

    Subramaniam Thirumeni Posted on: Nov 02, 2015

  • Mr Tan’s conclusion that the DP deters is based completely upon his own anecdotal evidence. He provides no empirical evidence to substantiate his claim. However, given the wide-ranging implications of penal policies on real people, such policies must be justified based on concrete criminological data and statistics, rather than on individual personal experience. Especially because the death penalty is the most severe form of punishment, those who seek to impose such a punishment have to justify it. On this front, Mr. Tan has not discharged his burden of proof. In fact, Mr. Tan avoids this responsibility by arguing that even if it is impossible to prove its deterrent effect, the death penalty should still be imposed.

    Even assuming that the death penalty is indeed an effective deterrent, compelling reasons still exist as to why the death penalty should not be imposed.

    What needs to be noted is Mr. Tan is not just suggesting that the offender be punished because of what he has done, but primarily to deter potential criminals. The very crux of deterrence is to punish the offender in order to deter would-be offenders. Essentially, we are punishing the offender to prevent would-be criminals from offending, even though the offender is not personally responsible for crimes committed by these hypothetical criminals. In this respect, we are also punishing the offender for an offence he has not committed, and in which he is “innocent”. But I suspect that Mr. Tan would accept this, since he is willing to run the risk of executing innocent people. In that case, and by extension from the deterrent logic, Mr. Tan must also be prepared to defend and argue that we should consider executing the loved ones of those who commit murder/drug trafficking, since it does not matter that the subject of punishment is not responsible for the crime. Arguably, one might argue that executing the loved ones of the accused might provide an even greater deterrent effect.

    Yet, if we flinch at such a suggestion, it might because we recognize that there are moral limits on punishment.The biggest problem with Mr. Tan’s argument is that he recognizes no such limits on how far we may go to achieve the goal of deterrence. Thus, any such punishment, including the execution of the loved ones of the accused, can be justified on Mr. Tan’s grounds. Perhaps deterrence does not provide an adequate justification after all, unless we are prepared to accept that there are no limits as to how far we may go to achieve the effect of deterrence, and the cost and trade-offs that accompanies it.

    Mr. Tan then goes on to supplement the deterrence argument by arguing that the offender has committed a serious crime and deserves punishment (although as have been noted above, the deterrence argument punishes the offender more so for the crime he is not responsible for). His argument here is confusing. In his opening statement, he makes the argument that “if the maximum punishment (e.g., life imprisonment) is imposed on the murderer, then it should be sufficient punishment to avenge his crime”. But he then concludes that the death penalty should be imposed for such abominable crimes. If deterrence is the deciding factor why the punishment should be death instead of life, then the problems of deterrence in justifying the death penalty that have been highlighted above requires proponents of the death penalty to look for other justifications to support their contention.

    Priscilla Chia Posted on: Nov 02, 2015

  • InIn Kho Jabing’s unique case, the fact that there were disagreements on whether the death sentence was appropriate, not just from ordinary citizens like myself, or law students, or even lawyers, but experienced judges from the appealate court and also the high court should make us examine more carefully the meaning of the term ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. Is it reasonable doubt when it is 33.33%? Some may say yes, some may say no.

    However, this should show that there certainly needs more debate on the application of our laws to understand them, to improve them. Also more deliberations need to be made upon the impact the death penalty has on our community, on families from both sides.

    Mr. Tan asks a few questions in conclusion. I will provide responses to each of them below.

    1) Do most people agree that Singapore is a much safer society than many other similar countries?

    Yes but it would be a mistake to think that it is the sole result of laws like the death penalty.

    2) What is it that makes Singapore a much safer country and society?

    It is more so on the dedication of the public service who serve with the best of their abilities within the functions that the law and public institutions provide. If the death penalty or any other law is replaced, I do not think the dedication of our men and women of the civil service would waver the slightest, therefore it would not diminish the commitment or responsibility of the judiciary or the home team to keep crime at bay.

    3) If Singapore did not have perceived “draconian” measures against drug trafficking, would we end up having a much more serious drug problem?

    Again it is not just the draconian laws which make our society safer from drugs and other crimes which have strong links to social and economic factors. It is simplistic and non-factual to think that the authorities’ efforts in the ongoing protection against drug crimes do not involve connecting or strengthening the communities, to be more resilient from such social ills. Just searching through the official website of the Singapore Police Force on anti-drug efforts and campaigns will confirm this.

    Historically the death penalty is a remnant of a bygone era. An era where the sophistication of research in areas of crime, law, justice, social issues and etcetera, was not available. Where compassion needed to be traded in for the sake of justice.

    Singapore is currently perfectly poised to balance this by expanding our capacity for compassion. In this era, where Singapore seeks to benefit from being a knowledge-based economy which values intellectual capability more than ever before, we certainly have the capacity to seek to replace blunt punishments like the death penalty with sharper, more sensitive ones which take into account their holistic effects within the community and to all parties involved.

    Additionally with the continued dedication of the men and women within our public service, I believe that we can choose life just as Mr Eugene Thuraisingam has proclaimed, to better uphold justice and express compassion for both the individual and society. Is a just society which is also compassionate not for the benefit of all, for both present and for future generations?

    Soe Min Than Posted on: Oct 30, 2015

  • In defense of Kho Jabing’s unique case, the fact that there were disagreements on whether the death sentence was appropriate, not just from ordinary citizens like myself, or law students, or even lawyers, but experienced judge. from the appealate court and also the high court should make us examine the meaning of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. Is it reasonable doubt when it is 33.33%? Some may say yes, some may say no.

    However, there certainly needs more diliberations on the impact the death penalty has on our community, on families from both sides.

    Mr. Tan asks the followi

    Soe Min Than Posted on: Oct 30, 2015

  • Section 300(c) of the Penal Code prescribes that an act is murder “if it is done with the intention of causing bodily injury to any person, and the bodily injury intended to be inflicted is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death”.

    With or without such a definition written down in the Penal Code, the death penalty is in fact the most premeditated form of murder in the world in which each and every step, from the passing of the sentence to the execution itself, is conducted with the intention to end a human life. The only thing that stops many from perceiving it as murder, is the fact that it is carried out with the approval and sponsorship of the state, and in the name of justice. On top of that, there seems to be an automatic acceptance that the existence of a retributive justice system is the only way a society can work to maintain or uphold justice of any kind. Perhaps it is time that we explore the possibility of judicial reform, and make a gradual transformation to having a justice system that is based on the principles of restorative justice.

    I do not agree with the act of killing any criminals, because it is a short cut method of “justice” that has not proven to be a deterrent against crimes, nor does it actually work to solve any social issues leading to the occurrence of crimes. When a crime happens, the focus is often placed on the crime itself rather than factors leading to the crime (e.g., existence of adversity of any kind) which is certainly myopic. There is no place for the death penalty in this day and age, and I strongly believe that it should be abolished.

    Rachel Zeng Posted on: Oct 21, 2015

  • Mr Tan’s opening statement is awful and fraught with major undefendable assumptions and most worryingly for a secular state, repeatedly references religion as a moral benchmark for our secular society.

    Firstly, he takes prisoners’ coping mechanism of caning (braggadocio) at total face value and assumes that it therefore is not a deterrent at all. Come on, it obviously isn’t the case. After being restrained and whipped like an animal, men who are socially conditioned not to display weakness are trying to salvage what little pride they can. To a sensible person, it shouldn’t mean that it automatically makes them completely unafraid of it.

    Secondly, without meaningful substantiation, he repeatedly makes the case that deterrence WILL prevent crime. Firstly, he assumes that Singapore’s low crime rate is automatically due to capital punishment without any causal evidence. He also ignores evidence that everywhere else, deterrent justice systems are less successful in preventing repeat offenses compared to rehabilitation focused systems.

    He also assumes revenge is the best way to make victims feel better (not true).

    Last of all, he assumes the only alternative is life imprisonment

    Bryan Gan Posted on: Oct 14, 2015

  • Mr Thuraisingam makes the better argument here by raising the fact that there is no conclusive evidence that the death penalty has any unique efficacy re: deterrence. Mr Tan strongly believes in the deterrent power of the death penalty, but his support draws almost entirely from anecdotal experience.

    Given the gravity of the situation, I believe that the burden of proof should lie on death penalty advocates to prove that the death penalty is more efficacious than alternative punishments (such as caning and life imprisonment) in order to justify its existence. Mr Thuraisingam rightly points out that this evidence needs to be “clear or reliable” – Mr Tan’s anecdotes are neither, and by failing to meet the standard, vindicates Mr Thuraisingam’s point.

    Nigel Na Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • I am reminded of the expression, “There but for the grace of god go I”. Everyone makes mistakes in their lives, sometimes very serious mistakes, sometimes committed in the heat of the moment or due to other circumstances, but no-one is beyond reform and rehabilitation. The playing field is not level at birth, and some of us commit a foul whilst engaging in the game of life, for which we deserve to get sent off the playing field to the side line while we reflect on our actions and make improvements. But it is not a reason to turn out the lights. Even the referee may make an error in calling the foul and only later utilising new scientific advancements does that error become apparent. To argue for abolishing the death penalty is not an argument that there should be no punishment. Incarceration and removal from society, potentially for a lengthy period, is a strong and appropriate punishment. Imprisonment and the loss of privacy, liberty and opportunity, having to watch as the world goes by without you, is a powerful disincentive to commit crime. It serves the purpose of retribution for the victim. There are studies which show that adding the death penalty to the punishment regime does not add to crime deterrence. Indeed we live in a relatively safe environment, and long may it remain so, but there are several possible explanations for this, and no certainty that it is due to the presence of the death penalty. It is time for society to show its humanity.

    Bill Bowman Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • I believe in the equal value of every human life, and that means a person is no less valuable in existing just because they committed a crime, no matter how grievous it might be. Every person is entitled to the opportunity to receive forgiveness from those whom he or she has hurt or brought pain to, as well as the chance to mend his or her ways — be it in spending the rest of his/her life in prison or part of it inside and part outside.

    Many a prison volunteer can attest to countless stories of prisoners on death row who have experienced true repentance and were at peace with themselves before being sent to the gallows. The lives of these men and women could have been saved and spent more fruitfully, contributing to society.

    Indeed it can be argued they may still be dangerous, so it may be more worthwhile to monitor their progress, and should they really repeat their crimes, lock them away for the rest of their lives — no matter what happens, snuffing out a life makes no sense and has little proven deterrent effect against serious crime either.

    Jeanette Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • Call me the naive idealist but my reasons for wanting the death penalty abolished are simple.

    They presuppose a fundamental humanistic instinct inherent in all human beings, which is the valuing of human life. Human life has worth and dignity, be that of the aristocrat or the pauper, the bourgeoisie or the proletariat and as such the taking away of human life is antithetical to eudaimonia, or human flourishing. This includes the murder of an apparent criminal by the judiciary.

    Punitive justice to me is not justice in the truest sense of the word as two wrongs in this case will not make a right. It only renders shameless the legal system and its enforcers.

    Benjamin Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • I have not seen any research on the effect of of the death penalty and crime rates in Singapore.

    The late Father G Arotcarena who spent many years administering to prisoners and looking after the welfare of ex offenders had this to say about death row inmates and the death penalty:

    “I can testify that, in most of these men, something human remained which only needed to be revived and maintained. The death penalty is nothing but an act of vengeance. It has nothing to do with justice. It lowers the society that imposes it, bringing it to the level of the criminals against whom it uses the sentence, supposedly to protect itself. As Confucius said: “He who gives way to vengeance digs two graves: one for his enemy and the other for himself.” The Singapore government would do itself proud if it abolished the death penalty. Unfortunately, it has not reached that point yet.” I am optimistic that the death penalty will be abolished one day.

    Teo Soh Lung Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • I support the abolition of the death penalty in Singapore because the benefits to society are far outweighed by the associated risks.

    As Mr. Tan indicates, the main benefit of the death penalty is its deterrent potential. But logically, the death penalty only deters those who do not fear the next harshest punishment. In Singapore, it would deter only those criminals who do not fear life in prison, but who fear an earlier death. Surely this cannot be all (or even most) criminals?

    Against this, we must set the real risk of executing an undeserving person, which has been dealt with in detail by previous commentators.

    Mr Tan believes it is more likely for a person to be killed on the roads than for an innocent person to be hanged. That is not the comparison we should make. We should instead ask: Can we, in good conscience, trade the risk of executing undeserving human beings for the narrow slice of deterrence the death penalty adds to our justice system? My personal answer is no.

    Qabir Sandhu Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • “I understand there are usually about two dozen witnesses to these executions and I sometimes wonder about those who will be at mine, unknown, faceless men rooting for me to die, happy to see me breathe my last breath. I wonder about men who do not know me, have never met me, never broken bread with me and who know nothing about what’s in my heart, who nonetheless are anxious, eager, happy to see me die.
    It does not bother me, but I wonder if it will ever bother any of those men (and yes, it’s almost always men, with their lust for blood; women seldom indulge in this), perhaps in their sunset years when they reflect back on their youth and wonder about their imperatives. I hope, for their sakes, that one day they will be ashamed — or at least disappointed — with their naked blood lust and will determine to henceforth set a better example for those following behind them.” -William Van Poyck, executed June 12, 2013 in the US

    By directly participating in the execution process, prison workers have to face the moral implications of knowingly participating in the act of killing another human being. At the same time, those responsible for carrying out the execution do not have the benefit of having heard all evidence presented at the trial. Many times the doubt of the condemned person’s guilt is a heavy burden on the consciences of those that have to perform the execution.

    “If you let the judge be the executioner, I think he would give a second thought about sending somebody to be executed.” -Jerry Givens, retired Executioner, Virginia Department of Corrections.
    “There is nothing commonplace about walking a healthy young man to a room, strapping him into a chair, and coldly, methodically killing him.” -Donald Cabana, former Warden, Mississippi State Penitentiary.

    It is a false assumption to think that in the body’s mode of “flight or fight”, when adrenaline hormones are being pumped throughout the body for aggressive, vigorous action, that we are able to pause and think about our fate calmly, about what constitutes manslaughter, grievous hurt, or maybe to check with a lawyer. Plea bargaining in drugs cases here assumes that all couriers, lowest level members in syndicates know enough for “substantively assisting in CNB’s operations to disrupt drug trafficking activities within or outside of Singapore”.

    On the definitions of retribution and revenge, it may be defined differently depending on where the terms are used. However if you look at psychological studies, revenge is called the psychology of retribution. In studies related to perceptions of justice, feelings of revenge have been specifically addressed. They reveal what is called the “revenge paradox” and that “rather than providing closure, [taking our revenge] does the opposite: It keeps the wound open and fresh”.
    Some scientists believe that revenge is a primitive instinct that has been left over from the days of our early ancestors during their struggle for survival as tribes. Additionally that the human race later developed, a forgiveness instinct “that enables people to suppress the desire for revenge and signal their willingness to continue on, even though someone has harmed their interests, assuming the person will refrain from doing so again in the future” (Michael McCullough, PhD, Professor of Psychology at the University of Miami).

    In the April 2011 issue of the European Journal of Social Psychology a study showed that “If the message (the offender’s recognizing of his wrongdoing) is not delivered, it cannot re-establish justice” (Mario Gollwitzer, psychological scientist). This suggests that it is not the form of punishment but the effect of a punishment producing guilt for the offender, as being more valuable to victims of wrongdoing. Therefore capital punishment need not be the only ‘worthy’ punishment for the most violent/serious crimes in relating to the victim’s loved ones, or the victim’s interest. It is another false assumption to think that the victim would want another’s life to be taken away from another family, from another loved one.

    All of the above suggest that justice can be better achieved if the punishment manages to balance the revenge instinct (knowledge of wrongdoer’s guilt) with the forgiveness instinct (on condition that the wrongdoer has reformed). The simplest of generalisations is to kill the worst wrongdoers of our time, and those who remain living will be safe, better for it. However can we still afford such simplistic thinking by ignoring the rigorous but worthy exercise of ethics and ethical standards? Can we still truly believe that a person who ends up on death row is the only one that suffers? What about the family and loved ones, such as children? What is the real social impact of killing prisoners? The executed can no longer commit future wrongdoing to society just as surely as the murder victim can no longer contribute to society. However what is the real cost of giving death to a prisoner, which also renders him/her no longer able to contribute, versus life imprisonment, which still allows some contribution to society (at the very minimum to their families, or prison community)?

    The state takes on the responsibility, and its civil servants carry out the deed, from arrest, prosecution, judgement to execution. Moreover, it is for the sake of the rest of us, for our safety, for society. The state should rightly lay out the real costs of capital punishment. Comprehensive studies should focus on the effects, to the families of victims lost to violent crime, to families of those executed, to health of death row prison staff, to rate of violent crime, to rate of drug offenses, to mental state of death row prisoners in last days leading up to time of execution and to other relevant social factors. The question of why the death penalty did not deter those who committed the crime also needs to be explicitly addressed. An extensive review of other alternative policies practiced in other states and to explicitly state which ones may/ may not be suitable here and why, is also needed.

    Without such information to review before deciding to take a human life seems grossly unethical. All this would have been impossible undertakings 50 years ago during the time of our earlier generation of pioneering leaders but very manageable now in this modern age of research and shared global knowledge systems. Such research and knowledge would also be greatly valued regardless of the findings and Singapore may be better poised and also in urgent need for such comprehensive studies than any other nation due to its population density and limited land mass.

    Soe Min Than Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • It is inhuman to kill another person whatever the reason is. We must not be murderers ourselves.

    I disagree that the reason of death penalty is to deter offender. Most likely he’ll be in jail under the highest security.

    I disagree that the reason of death penalty is to deter others doing heinous crimes. Why must someone be punished to death, to deter something that may or may not be done in the future, moreover by others?

    Since Mr Tan Peng Chin mentioned the Roman Catholic, it forbids killing another person. It’s stated in the Ten Commandments.

    Handaya Rusli Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • I’m against the death penalty due to how it has falsely killed so many people worldwide due to racial (and other) bias. Studies also suggest that it takes more money to send someone to hang than it does to keep them imprisoned forever. The death penalty is also proven to not be a deterrent for crime so much that it is an easy way out for criminals who’d rather die than be imprisoned indefinitely. Also it’s unfair in other ways: sending someone who killed one person to hang vs the same punishment for someone who killed fifteen. They say someone forfeits their right to life when they kill but if they killed fifteen times we can’t kill them fifteen times over, can we? Also it’s plain cruel and medieval to kill people for drug trafficking.

    Drima Chakraborty Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • 1. Simply read Mhd Kadar v PP [2011] SGCA 32 and any fantasies about 200% certainty will be immediately dispelled. What emerges is shocking, to say the least.

    2. If prison life is “hard, meaningless and demoralising”, surely life imprisonment is an effective deterrent.

    3. Who are we really punishing by executing people? I submit it is their family members who effectively, have to endure their relative being legally killed by the State. Why should they be punished instead of the offender having to spend a lifetime reflecting on his crime, apart from society?

    4. Mr Tan touches only on violent crime. What about death penalty for drug mules? His eye for an eye rationale holds no sway here.

    5. Most developed countries have abolished the death penalty. Why?

    Has the lack of executions for the past 50 years resulted in increased crime rates in places like Scandanavia, which enjoys comparable crime rates with Singapore? No.

    It does not effectively deter non-premeditated crime.

    Jared Dass Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • There is no simply convincing evidence that harsher penalties deter crime. In 2012 by a committee of the American National Academy of Sciences National Review Council reviewed 34 years of research on the death penalty and homicide in the US and concluded that “it is impossible to draw credible findings about the effect of the death penalty on homicide”. With – literally – life and death at stake, it is heinously irresponsible and unethical to continue killing human beings on such a shaky foundation.

    Jolene Tan Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • Mr Tan Peng Chin argued that the courts would never impose the death penalty upon someone unless they were 200% sure of his/her guilt. How does he reconcile this 200% confidence with cases where there are dissenting judgements? As Mr Thuraisingam pointed out, there was a dissenting judge in Took Leng How’s case – yet he was executed anyway. As I write this Sarawakian Kho Jabing is sitting on death row even though two out of the five judges on the Court of Appeal bench felt he should not be sentenced to death. Unanimous decisions are not required in Singapore for the death sentence to be imposed or upheld – how is this the overwhelming confidence that Mr Tan described?

    Kirsten Han Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • Both Kho Jabing and Khaddar case shows the resilience and impartiality of the court system in Singapore for the severity of imposing the death penalty.
    The facts of the cases are clear in which the perpetrators are identified.
    In regards to the mens rear argument by critics, it would be better as a considered judgement by the panel rather than the chorus of anti death penalty activists.
    Furthermore, for heinous crimes against children or even serial murderers, it is blatant injustice for the victims or families of such victims to know that such perpetrators remain among them, yet at times, the dismissive arguments and ridicule heaped by such activists are beyond the pale.

    Wang Posted on: Nov 02, 2015

  • Although I am in agreement with TPC’s argument that the death penalty should continue to be imposed, but only “for the very heinous crimes or crimes that cause tremendous harm to society so that criminals or potential criminals will be deterred from committing such crimes” I would like to say that the questions raised by him in the concluding part of his post have little or no bearing in serving as arguments for his stance against the motion for the debate.

    1) Do most people agree that Singapore is a much safer society than many other similar countries?

    Singapore may be a safer society compared with some other countries but the issue of safety may have nothing to do with the fact that the death penalty is a feature of its laws.

    2) If Singapore did not have perceived “draconian” measures against drug trafficking, would we end up having a much more serious drug problem?

    How can we ever provide a meaningful answer without relevant statistics or from past experience, from both sides of the line?

    Countries without the death penalty – do they have higher cases of drug trafficking compared with Singapore? Even if the answer is Yes, other factors, besides the death penalty, may be involved. If the answer is No, does it support the argument that the death penalty is a reason for the lower incidence of drug trafficking? The answer is a resounding NO, as there may be a diversity of factors or reasons.

    Regrettably, both debaters seem to have disregarded the comments posted in the comments section. Nothing specific was raised about pointers made by observers to the debate.

    Richard Woo Posted on: Nov 01, 2015

  • Eugene: I choose life… because the sanctity of life is not something we can take upon ourselves to violate.

    Eugene’s assertion “the sanctity of life is not something we can take upon ourselves to violate” leaves the avenue open for further discussion or debate.

    What does he mean by “sanctity of life”? Is he talking of human life or any kind of life? OK, let’s assume he is referring to human life – and my question is: What about non-human life, say, the cow, the pig, the chicken, etc? And why should only human life be considered sanctimonious, if the term “sanctity” cannot and should not apply to non-human life? Is Eugene connected to a certain religiosity and takes the view that people are made in God’s image and that human life has an inherently sacred attribute that should be protected and respected at all times? If he thinks that sanctity is applicable to human life only, is such thinking based on his religious upbringing? What justification can he provide for thinking that non-human life, unlike human life, is not sanctimonious?

    In his opening statement Eugene has made the claim that it is wrong to kill another person but here he is clearly offering the justification that it is not wrong for a policeman shooting and killing an armed criminal intent on committing mass murder. He says: “…with a known criminal armed with an automatic rifle, there is no doubt that he will commit mass murder if he is not stopped. This — the certainty of harm that will be caused — is the fundamental difference between the state condoning the killing of a person facing the death penalty and the policeman killing an armed criminal with the intention to commit mass murder.”

    Here, Eugene seems to have taken the position that there is no doubt that the armed criminal would kill if he is not killed first; prevention [or deterrence?] is better than cure, as most of us might agree. But how can he justify his certainty that the criminal in question would commit mass murder if left alone? Of course, one has to factor in all relevant factors, to justify one’s actions or thoughts. Can we argue there is a chance that the armed criminal may not commit mass murder if left alone? Appearances alone can be deceptive. However, we can never tell, for sure. So, we may still argue that killing the criminal in the circumstances may be justified, to obviate the risks of him killing other people. If Eugene accepts that it is not wrong in the policeman killing the criminal, in the scenario we have described, then Eugene has to admit that it is not wrong to kill another person – where there is ethical or legal justification for doing so; hence he should now admit that he has made an error of judgment in saying in his opening statement that it is wrong to kill another person.

    Eugene’s concluding comment: “In conclusion, I highlight that the rights and wrongs of the death penalty have been debated over many decades and there is still no clear universal stance taken on it. Perhaps there will never be a universal stance taken, and if so, in the face of such moral dilemma, I say we should always choose life.”

    It is clear: Eugene may choose life while others may prefer death over life.

    Regrettably, both debaters seem to have disregarded the comments posted in the comments section. Nothing specific was raised about pointers made by observers to the debate.

    Richard Woo Posted on: Nov 01, 2015

  • In the case of Kho Jabing which Ms Kirsten Han refers to in her comments in favour of abolishing the death penalty, it was not in doubt that Jabing attempted to rob the deceased, and struck him in the head *at least* twice with a piece of wood without provocation or notice, and with great violence, fracturing the skull. I would have concluded that the death penalty was an appropriate punishment in that case on any view of the facts.

    Yeoh Lian Chuan Posted on: Oct 26, 2015

  • The death sentence should not be abolished, but should only be used on the worst of crimes, because there will always be crimes so heinous and criminals so unrepentant that the best way to deal with them is to execute them.

    From a moral perspective, using massive amounts of public resources to keep such criminals alive would be immoral – why make everyone work harder just so these people can stay alive?

    Also, is it moral to cause the criminal decades of suffering, locked away in prison? If your answer to that is to make prison life good enough so that criminals don’t experience suffering, then is it moral for law-abiding, tax-paying citizens to fund a good life for a criminal?

    From a utilitarian perspective, executing such a criminal would be the moral choice. Good citizens suffer less by not having to fund his imprisonment with their tax dollars, and the criminal suffers less by not having to go through decades of prison life.

    The only alternative I see is if they somehow turn prison into some form of labour camp where the prisoners are put to work to generate equal or greater economic gain that it costs to imprison them – then I would be in support of keeping them alive.

    Chris Posted on: Oct 21, 2015

  • I believe when Mr Thuraisingam suggests that “If we cannot and do not even begin to understand why we are here and where we came from…, then we cannot claim the power to take it away”, it weakens his case. In the first place, those who support keeping the death penalty are not necessarily claiming divine mandate.

    If we follow his argument, then a logical outworking would be that neither can an individual/society claim to know what is ultimately right or wrong, good or evil? If we are uncertain and confused about the purpose/meaning of life, then who or where do we turn to for an objective basis of morality? Interestingly enough, Mr Thuraisingam began with an assertion that “killing another person is wrong” but fail to explain the basis for his moral claim.

    We all desire a society that rightly tempers justice with mercy. Often, the death penalty has been mistaken to be a blunt, cruel instrument of justice. But before we remove it, one should consider its purpose. Would a life sentence suffice for certain heinous crimes? Is justice upheld when the State has to channel resources to care for unrepentant mass murderers? Why is living behind bars more merciful than a death penalty?

    Edwin Wong Posted on: Oct 16, 2015

  • Agreed with the views of Mr Tan Peng Chin

    a) Considering the safeguards presently in place, the factual circumstances especially in the light of DNA evidence leaves little room for doubt for the facts in any death penalty case.
    b) the calls for abolishment ignores the cries of the victims of the crimes especially the families and the children of such crimes.
    c) it is a double injustice that the cries for abolishment only views it from the case of the perpetrators who unless due to actual documented and verified cases of coercion (which case manslaughter may be considered), the death penalty should be imposed.
    d) the abolishment of such severe judicial penalties will leave even more the cases of possibly worse crimes being committed and the families and children of such crimes being made to suffer more since they are aware that the perpetrators of such crimes remain among them in present day Singapore

    Respectfully

    Wang Posted on: Oct 16, 2015

  • In war, people are killed, soldiers are killed. In peacetime, there is also a war which is the war against crime. The ultimate victory against heinous crimes is to kill the criminal, and in doing so the offence is taken away and evened out and the society will have peace.

    If you let the troublemakers against peace in the society to live, you are not doing justice to the society at large. The criminals will be emboldened, seeing that they can kill, traffick drugs and if they are caught, they will not be punished by death since the law of the society is weak against them.

    Hardcore criminals are the cancer of the society which must be rid of. If you have cancer in the body, will you let it grow or kill it before it affect the whole body? Will you be merciful to the cancer in the body and let it spread?

    To rid the society of its cancerous living cells — that is criminals or offenders who committed heinous crimes, these cancerous living cells of the society must be sentenced from being alive in the society. It is medically right to do so for benefit of all the ‘good’ people.

    Mike Posted on: Oct 15, 2015

  • Our justice system shows more sympathy for criminals than it does victims. It’s time we put the emphasis of our criminal justice system back on protecting the victim rather than the accused. Remember, a person who’s on death row has almost always committed crimes before this. A long line of victims have been waiting for justice. We need justice for current and past victims.

    It provides a deterrent for prisoners already serving a life sentence. What about people already sentenced to life in prison. What’s to stop them from murdering people constantly while in prison? What are they going to do–extend their sentences? Sure, they can take away some prison privileges, but is this enough of a deterrent to stop the killing? What about a person sentenced to life who happens to escape? What’s to stop him from killing anyone who might try to bring him in or curb his crime spree?

    DNA testing and other methods of modern crime scene science can now effectively eliminate almost all uncertainty as to a person’s guilt or innocence. One of the biggest arguments against the death penalty is the possibility of error. Sure, we can never completely eliminate all uncertainty, but nowadays, it’s about as close as you can get. DNA testing is over 99 percent effective. And even if DNA testing and other such scientific methods didn’t exist, the trial and appeals process is so thorough it’s next to impossible to convict an innocent person. Remember, a jury of 12 members must unanimously decide there’s not even a reasonable doubt the person is guilty. The number of innocent people that might somehow be convicted is no greater than the number of innocent victims of the murderers who are set free.

    Joseph Posted on: Oct 14, 2015

  • The death penalty gives closure to the victim’s families who have suffered so much. Some family members of crime victims may take years or decades to recover from the shock and loss of a loved one. Some may never recover. One of the things that helps hasten this recovery is to achieve some kind of closure. Life in prison just means the criminal is still around to haunt the victim. A death sentence brings finality to a horrible chapter in the lives of these family members.

    It creates another form of crime deterrent. Crime would run rampant as never before if there wasn’t some way to deter people from committing the acts. Prison time is an effective deterrent, but with some people, more is needed. Prosecutors should have the option of using a variety of punishments in order to minimize crime.

    Justice is better served. The most fundamental principle of justice is that the punishment should fit the crime. When someone plans and brutally murders another person, doesn’t it make sense that the punishment for the perpetrator also be death?

    Dany Posted on: Oct 14, 2015

  • There is still a place for the death penalty today, if and only if, it is carried out against perpetrators of the most severe and vicious of crimes and only when it coheres with the wider society’s inherent sense of justice.

    And if the death penalty can prevent a murderer from murdering again, that will result in innocent lives saved.

    Besides deterrence and prevention, the death penalty also affords some form of rehabilitation: The fear of death is a psychological burden for most and it is in this finality of the outcome that some form of rehabilitation can take place.

    Examples of people on death row taking the opportunity to repent and make amends are plentiful, even though the criminal cannot be rehabilitated and returned to polite society.

    And this karmic argument also coheres with society’s sometimes wonky sense of justification where the belief is that bad things happen to bad people. And hence, the contrary holds that good things must happen to good people.

    It might not straighten the bad person out, but it keeps the good on the straight and narrow. And there is no evidence for this, because one cannot reason from things that did not happen.

    Belmont Lay Posted on: Oct 14, 2015

  • My position is one that does not support the total abolition of the death penalty. I take the view that the death penalty should continue to be imposed but only for crimes of such gravity that without imposing the death penalty there is no question of justice being served. No one should be allowed to escape the death penalty if they have [1] committed murder or mass murder [2] raped or tortured resulting in the death of their human victim[s] [3] killed a human or some humans under contract killing. This list is not exhaustive of course and can be expanded to include other crimes of similar gravity or severity.

    UN rights experts have recently issued a warning that “executions for drug crimes amount to a violation of international law and are unlawful killings.” And it is heartening to note that Singapore has made some changes to the law concerning the death penalty so that it is no longer mandatory and judges in court trials are now given some leeway to consider whether something less than capital punishment is warranted in the circumstances.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment_by_country
    As of July 2015, of the 196 independent states that are UN members or have UN observer status:
    102 have abolished it for all crimes;
    7 have abolished it, but retain it for exceptional or special circumstances (such as crimes committed in wartime);
    50 retain it, but have not used it for at least 10 years or are under a moratorium;
    37 retain it in both law and practice.

    Tan Peng Chin [TPC] has argued principally on “deterrent” as a factor supporting his position for maintaining the death penalty. For one thing, the death penalty has been a part of Singapore’s criminal justice system for so long; but has it really deterred crimes from being committed? Can the number of people sentenced to death over the last 80 years, say, be indicative of its effectiveness? We can never really tell, whether the number can be considered significant or not. A high figure can be interpreted as a case of the death penalty being ineffective, while a low figure can be seen as lending support to its effectiveness. But what sort of baseline or standard should one use to determine what is high or low? Nothing of substance can emanate from there, I suppose. There are too many issues to consider.

    Elsewhere, in other places, in some US cities, for example, it was found that some cities practicing the death penalty were having high crime rates compared with other US cities with death penalty but having low crime rates.

    This assertion of TPC seems self-defeating: “Many of us who have never been imprisoned before cannot imagine how hard, meaningless and demoralising prison life can be. Even though all of us believe that life is precious, very few appreciate what a living hell life imprisonment can be. Some proponents against the death penalty seem to forget that sooner or later, all of us will die.” If prison life is so bad or so hellish, why should we bother with capital punishment?

    Another assertion of TPC: “I was a volunteer with the Roman Catholic Prison Ministry for many years, and based on my interaction with many prisoners, including hardcore criminals, I have concluded that the only punishment that criminals are afraid of, is the death penalty.”

    The prisoners who expressed such a sentiment had probably not considered the consequences of their actions that could plausibly lead to capital punishment; if they had weighed and considered, then they should have no reason to be talking like that, after the fact.

    Eugene says: “To kill another person is wrong. Why should that be any different when killing takes place in the name of the state?”

    Killing another person is not always wrong, however. How could it be held to be wrong if, say, A killed B in self-defense? B would have killed A if A had not acted in self-defense. In a war there is no question of wrong or right; you kill your foe or your foe will kill you.

    Let’s consider this assertion of Eugene: “We cannot and do not even begin to understand why we are here and where we came from. If we cannot even answer where life comes from, how on earth can we claim the power to take it away?”

    We may not have the answer to why we are here or where we came from, but we have the intelligence in putting in place a justice system for the purpose of providing safety, protection and social order to the community as a whole. And the power to forfeit, say, the life of a person is one that is conferred under the aforesaid justice system, which arose through a collective decision. As the death penalty was the result of a collective decision at institutional level, it can be abolished through a decision exercised similarly.

    Of course, miscarriages of justice have occurred – involving the death penalty or otherwise. There is no way we can restore a person’s life once that person has been put to death. The greatest reason for abolishing the death penalty is the plausibility of committing an error of judgment by holding someone guilty when that person is in fact innocent and then sentencing the person to death. And that’s why type 1 errors are taboo to those administering punishment.

    Richard Woo Posted on: Oct 14, 2015

  • In the same vein or rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s… If you choose to live in Singapore, you cannot choose not to abide by its laws. Stop comparing with other countries. Speak and act for what is relevant in this country you choose to call home.

    Sheldon Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • PRO: “Society is justly ordered when each person receives what is due to him. Crime disturbs this just order, for the criminal takes from people their lives, peace, liberties, and worldly goods in order to give himself undeserved benefits. Deserved punishment protects society morally by restoring this just order, making the wrongdoer pay a price equivalent to the harm he has done. This is retribution, not to be confused with revenge, which is guided by a different motive. In retribution the spur is the virtue of indignation, which answers injury with injury for public good… Retribution is the primary purpose of just punishment as such… [R]ehabilitation, protection, and deterrence have a lesser status in punishment than retribution.”
    The crimes of rape, torture, treason, kidnapping, murder, larceny, and perjury pivot on a moral code that escapes apodictic [indisputably true] proof by expert testimony or otherwise. But communities would plunge into anarchy if they could not act on moral assumptions less certain than that the sun will rise in the east and set in the west. Abolitionists may contend that the death penalty is inherently immoral because governments should never take human life, no matter what the provocation. But that is an article of faith, not of fact. The death penalty honors human dignity by treating the defendant as a free moral actor able to control his own destiny for good or for ill; it does not treat him as an animal with no moral sense

    Zeus Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • In a larger sense, capital punishment is the ultimate warning against all crimes. If the criminal knows that the justice system will not stop at putting him to death, then the system appears more draconian to him. Not all, but many criminals who ride the fence on committing murder ultimately decide to spare the victim’s life.
    A system in place for the purpose of granting justice cannot do so for the surviving victims, unless the murderer himself is put to death.
    The justice system basically attempts to mete out punishment that fits the crime. Severe crimes result in imprisonment. ”Petty larceny” is not treated with the severity that is meted to “grand theft auto,” and the latter, consequently, receives more time in prison. So if severe—but non-lethal—violence toward another is found deserving of life without parole, then why should premeditated homicide be given the very same punishment? This fact might induce a would-be criminal to go ahead and kill the victim he has already mugged and crippled. Why would it matter, after all? His sentence could not get any worse.If murder is the willful deprivation of a victim’s right to life, then the justice system’s willful deprivation of the criminal’s right to the same is—even if overly severe—a punishment which fits the most severe crime that can be committed. Without capital punishment, it could be argued that the justice system makes no provision in response to the crime of murder, and thus provides no justice for the victim.

    Archie tan Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • First a reminder of the basic argument behind retribution and punishment:

    all guilty people deserve to be punished
    only guilty people deserve to be punished
    guilty people deserve to be punished in proportion to the severity of their crime
    This argument states that real justice requires people to suffer for their wrongdoing, and to suffer in a way appropriate for the crime. Each criminal should get what their crime deserves and in the case of a murderer what their crime deserves is death

    Life imprisonment without parole does not protects society adequately. The offender may no longer be a danger to the public, but he remains a danger to prison staff and other inmates. Execution would remove that danger.

    Plea bargaining is used in most countries. It’s the process through which a criminal gets a reduced sentence in exchange for providing help to the police.

    Where the possible sentence is death, the prisoner has the strongest possible incentive to try to get their sentence reduced.

    Boris Lee Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

comments

  • The unavailability of statistics cripples this debate from the outset. For those that support the death penalty, a key proposition is deterrence. However, our state has been opaque in making statistics available to the public. Until there is clear evidence of a link between the death penalty and the corresponding crime rate for offences punishable by death, the deterrence argument will remain an instinctive conjecture. We might be assisted by statistical studies from other jurisdictions where data is readily available. In 2009, a study was published in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology entitled, “Do Executions lower Homicide Rates: The Views of Leading Criminologists?” This study adopted the methodology of surveying leading Criminologists in the USA. The assumption being made is that their views have been conditioned by their own empirical research. The study revealed that overall 94% agreed that there was little empirical evidence to support the deterrent effect of the death penalty.
    I support the abolition of the death penalty purely on moral grounds. The death penalty is a conscious, premeditated form of state killing that is mandated by the law.

    Subramaniam Thirumeni Posted on: Nov 02, 2015

  • Mr Tan’s conclusion that the DP deters is based completely upon his own anecdotal evidence. He provides no empirical evidence to substantiate his claim. However, given the wide-ranging implications of penal policies on real people, such policies must be justified based on concrete criminological data and statistics, rather than on individual personal experience. Especially because the death penalty is the most severe form of punishment, those who seek to impose such a punishment have to justify it. On this front, Mr. Tan has not discharged his burden of proof. In fact, Mr. Tan avoids this responsibility by arguing that even if it is impossible to prove its deterrent effect, the death penalty should still be imposed.

    Even assuming that the death penalty is indeed an effective deterrent, compelling reasons still exist as to why the death penalty should not be imposed.

    What needs to be noted is Mr. Tan is not just suggesting that the offender be punished because of what he has done, but primarily to deter potential criminals. The very crux of deterrence is to punish the offender in order to deter would-be offenders. Essentially, we are punishing the offender to prevent would-be criminals from offending, even though the offender is not personally responsible for crimes committed by these hypothetical criminals. In this respect, we are also punishing the offender for an offence he has not committed, and in which he is “innocent”. But I suspect that Mr. Tan would accept this, since he is willing to run the risk of executing innocent people. In that case, and by extension from the deterrent logic, Mr. Tan must also be prepared to defend and argue that we should consider executing the loved ones of those who commit murder/drug trafficking, since it does not matter that the subject of punishment is not responsible for the crime. Arguably, one might argue that executing the loved ones of the accused might provide an even greater deterrent effect.

    Yet, if we flinch at such a suggestion, it might because we recognize that there are moral limits on punishment.The biggest problem with Mr. Tan’s argument is that he recognizes no such limits on how far we may go to achieve the goal of deterrence. Thus, any such punishment, including the execution of the loved ones of the accused, can be justified on Mr. Tan’s grounds. Perhaps deterrence does not provide an adequate justification after all, unless we are prepared to accept that there are no limits as to how far we may go to achieve the effect of deterrence, and the cost and trade-offs that accompanies it.

    Mr. Tan then goes on to supplement the deterrence argument by arguing that the offender has committed a serious crime and deserves punishment (although as have been noted above, the deterrence argument punishes the offender more so for the crime he is not responsible for). His argument here is confusing. In his opening statement, he makes the argument that “if the maximum punishment (e.g., life imprisonment) is imposed on the murderer, then it should be sufficient punishment to avenge his crime”. But he then concludes that the death penalty should be imposed for such abominable crimes. If deterrence is the deciding factor why the punishment should be death instead of life, then the problems of deterrence in justifying the death penalty that have been highlighted above requires proponents of the death penalty to look for other justifications to support their contention.

    Priscilla Chia Posted on: Nov 02, 2015

  • InIn Kho Jabing’s unique case, the fact that there were disagreements on whether the death sentence was appropriate, not just from ordinary citizens like myself, or law students, or even lawyers, but experienced judges from the appealate court and also the high court should make us examine more carefully the meaning of the term ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. Is it reasonable doubt when it is 33.33%? Some may say yes, some may say no.

    However, this should show that there certainly needs more debate on the application of our laws to understand them, to improve them. Also more deliberations need to be made upon the impact the death penalty has on our community, on families from both sides.

    Mr. Tan asks a few questions in conclusion. I will provide responses to each of them below.

    1) Do most people agree that Singapore is a much safer society than many other similar countries?

    Yes but it would be a mistake to think that it is the sole result of laws like the death penalty.

    2) What is it that makes Singapore a much safer country and society?

    It is more so on the dedication of the public service who serve with the best of their abilities within the functions that the law and public institutions provide. If the death penalty or any other law is replaced, I do not think the dedication of our men and women of the civil service would waver the slightest, therefore it would not diminish the commitment or responsibility of the judiciary or the home team to keep crime at bay.

    3) If Singapore did not have perceived “draconian” measures against drug trafficking, would we end up having a much more serious drug problem?

    Again it is not just the draconian laws which make our society safer from drugs and other crimes which have strong links to social and economic factors. It is simplistic and non-factual to think that the authorities’ efforts in the ongoing protection against drug crimes do not involve connecting or strengthening the communities, to be more resilient from such social ills. Just searching through the official website of the Singapore Police Force on anti-drug efforts and campaigns will confirm this.

    Historically the death penalty is a remnant of a bygone era. An era where the sophistication of research in areas of crime, law, justice, social issues and etcetera, was not available. Where compassion needed to be traded in for the sake of justice.

    Singapore is currently perfectly poised to balance this by expanding our capacity for compassion. In this era, where Singapore seeks to benefit from being a knowledge-based economy which values intellectual capability more than ever before, we certainly have the capacity to seek to replace blunt punishments like the death penalty with sharper, more sensitive ones which take into account their holistic effects within the community and to all parties involved.

    Additionally with the continued dedication of the men and women within our public service, I believe that we can choose life just as Mr Eugene Thuraisingam has proclaimed, to better uphold justice and express compassion for both the individual and society. Is a just society which is also compassionate not for the benefit of all, for both present and for future generations?

    Soe Min Than Posted on: Oct 30, 2015

  • In defense of Kho Jabing’s unique case, the fact that there were disagreements on whether the death sentence was appropriate, not just from ordinary citizens like myself, or law students, or even lawyers, but experienced judge. from the appealate court and also the high court should make us examine the meaning of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. Is it reasonable doubt when it is 33.33%? Some may say yes, some may say no.

    However, there certainly needs more diliberations on the impact the death penalty has on our community, on families from both sides.

    Mr. Tan asks the followi

    Soe Min Than Posted on: Oct 30, 2015

  • Section 300(c) of the Penal Code prescribes that an act is murder “if it is done with the intention of causing bodily injury to any person, and the bodily injury intended to be inflicted is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death”.

    With or without such a definition written down in the Penal Code, the death penalty is in fact the most premeditated form of murder in the world in which each and every step, from the passing of the sentence to the execution itself, is conducted with the intention to end a human life. The only thing that stops many from perceiving it as murder, is the fact that it is carried out with the approval and sponsorship of the state, and in the name of justice. On top of that, there seems to be an automatic acceptance that the existence of a retributive justice system is the only way a society can work to maintain or uphold justice of any kind. Perhaps it is time that we explore the possibility of judicial reform, and make a gradual transformation to having a justice system that is based on the principles of restorative justice.

    I do not agree with the act of killing any criminals, because it is a short cut method of “justice” that has not proven to be a deterrent against crimes, nor does it actually work to solve any social issues leading to the occurrence of crimes. When a crime happens, the focus is often placed on the crime itself rather than factors leading to the crime (e.g., existence of adversity of any kind) which is certainly myopic. There is no place for the death penalty in this day and age, and I strongly believe that it should be abolished.

    Rachel Zeng Posted on: Oct 21, 2015

  • Mr Tan’s opening statement is awful and fraught with major undefendable assumptions and most worryingly for a secular state, repeatedly references religion as a moral benchmark for our secular society.

    Firstly, he takes prisoners’ coping mechanism of caning (braggadocio) at total face value and assumes that it therefore is not a deterrent at all. Come on, it obviously isn’t the case. After being restrained and whipped like an animal, men who are socially conditioned not to display weakness are trying to salvage what little pride they can. To a sensible person, it shouldn’t mean that it automatically makes them completely unafraid of it.

    Secondly, without meaningful substantiation, he repeatedly makes the case that deterrence WILL prevent crime. Firstly, he assumes that Singapore’s low crime rate is automatically due to capital punishment without any causal evidence. He also ignores evidence that everywhere else, deterrent justice systems are less successful in preventing repeat offenses compared to rehabilitation focused systems.

    He also assumes revenge is the best way to make victims feel better (not true).

    Last of all, he assumes the only alternative is life imprisonment

    Bryan Gan Posted on: Oct 14, 2015

  • Mr Thuraisingam makes the better argument here by raising the fact that there is no conclusive evidence that the death penalty has any unique efficacy re: deterrence. Mr Tan strongly believes in the deterrent power of the death penalty, but his support draws almost entirely from anecdotal experience.

    Given the gravity of the situation, I believe that the burden of proof should lie on death penalty advocates to prove that the death penalty is more efficacious than alternative punishments (such as caning and life imprisonment) in order to justify its existence. Mr Thuraisingam rightly points out that this evidence needs to be “clear or reliable” – Mr Tan’s anecdotes are neither, and by failing to meet the standard, vindicates Mr Thuraisingam’s point.

    Nigel Na Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • I am reminded of the expression, “There but for the grace of god go I”. Everyone makes mistakes in their lives, sometimes very serious mistakes, sometimes committed in the heat of the moment or due to other circumstances, but no-one is beyond reform and rehabilitation. The playing field is not level at birth, and some of us commit a foul whilst engaging in the game of life, for which we deserve to get sent off the playing field to the side line while we reflect on our actions and make improvements. But it is not a reason to turn out the lights. Even the referee may make an error in calling the foul and only later utilising new scientific advancements does that error become apparent. To argue for abolishing the death penalty is not an argument that there should be no punishment. Incarceration and removal from society, potentially for a lengthy period, is a strong and appropriate punishment. Imprisonment and the loss of privacy, liberty and opportunity, having to watch as the world goes by without you, is a powerful disincentive to commit crime. It serves the purpose of retribution for the victim. There are studies which show that adding the death penalty to the punishment regime does not add to crime deterrence. Indeed we live in a relatively safe environment, and long may it remain so, but there are several possible explanations for this, and no certainty that it is due to the presence of the death penalty. It is time for society to show its humanity.

    Bill Bowman Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • I believe in the equal value of every human life, and that means a person is no less valuable in existing just because they committed a crime, no matter how grievous it might be. Every person is entitled to the opportunity to receive forgiveness from those whom he or she has hurt or brought pain to, as well as the chance to mend his or her ways — be it in spending the rest of his/her life in prison or part of it inside and part outside.

    Many a prison volunteer can attest to countless stories of prisoners on death row who have experienced true repentance and were at peace with themselves before being sent to the gallows. The lives of these men and women could have been saved and spent more fruitfully, contributing to society.

    Indeed it can be argued they may still be dangerous, so it may be more worthwhile to monitor their progress, and should they really repeat their crimes, lock them away for the rest of their lives — no matter what happens, snuffing out a life makes no sense and has little proven deterrent effect against serious crime either.

    Jeanette Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • Call me the naive idealist but my reasons for wanting the death penalty abolished are simple.

    They presuppose a fundamental humanistic instinct inherent in all human beings, which is the valuing of human life. Human life has worth and dignity, be that of the aristocrat or the pauper, the bourgeoisie or the proletariat and as such the taking away of human life is antithetical to eudaimonia, or human flourishing. This includes the murder of an apparent criminal by the judiciary.

    Punitive justice to me is not justice in the truest sense of the word as two wrongs in this case will not make a right. It only renders shameless the legal system and its enforcers.

    Benjamin Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • I have not seen any research on the effect of of the death penalty and crime rates in Singapore.

    The late Father G Arotcarena who spent many years administering to prisoners and looking after the welfare of ex offenders had this to say about death row inmates and the death penalty:

    “I can testify that, in most of these men, something human remained which only needed to be revived and maintained. The death penalty is nothing but an act of vengeance. It has nothing to do with justice. It lowers the society that imposes it, bringing it to the level of the criminals against whom it uses the sentence, supposedly to protect itself. As Confucius said: “He who gives way to vengeance digs two graves: one for his enemy and the other for himself.” The Singapore government would do itself proud if it abolished the death penalty. Unfortunately, it has not reached that point yet.” I am optimistic that the death penalty will be abolished one day.

    Teo Soh Lung Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • I support the abolition of the death penalty in Singapore because the benefits to society are far outweighed by the associated risks.

    As Mr. Tan indicates, the main benefit of the death penalty is its deterrent potential. But logically, the death penalty only deters those who do not fear the next harshest punishment. In Singapore, it would deter only those criminals who do not fear life in prison, but who fear an earlier death. Surely this cannot be all (or even most) criminals?

    Against this, we must set the real risk of executing an undeserving person, which has been dealt with in detail by previous commentators.

    Mr Tan believes it is more likely for a person to be killed on the roads than for an innocent person to be hanged. That is not the comparison we should make. We should instead ask: Can we, in good conscience, trade the risk of executing undeserving human beings for the narrow slice of deterrence the death penalty adds to our justice system? My personal answer is no.

    Qabir Sandhu Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • “I understand there are usually about two dozen witnesses to these executions and I sometimes wonder about those who will be at mine, unknown, faceless men rooting for me to die, happy to see me breathe my last breath. I wonder about men who do not know me, have never met me, never broken bread with me and who know nothing about what’s in my heart, who nonetheless are anxious, eager, happy to see me die.
    It does not bother me, but I wonder if it will ever bother any of those men (and yes, it’s almost always men, with their lust for blood; women seldom indulge in this), perhaps in their sunset years when they reflect back on their youth and wonder about their imperatives. I hope, for their sakes, that one day they will be ashamed — or at least disappointed — with their naked blood lust and will determine to henceforth set a better example for those following behind them.” -William Van Poyck, executed June 12, 2013 in the US

    By directly participating in the execution process, prison workers have to face the moral implications of knowingly participating in the act of killing another human being. At the same time, those responsible for carrying out the execution do not have the benefit of having heard all evidence presented at the trial. Many times the doubt of the condemned person’s guilt is a heavy burden on the consciences of those that have to perform the execution.

    “If you let the judge be the executioner, I think he would give a second thought about sending somebody to be executed.” -Jerry Givens, retired Executioner, Virginia Department of Corrections.
    “There is nothing commonplace about walking a healthy young man to a room, strapping him into a chair, and coldly, methodically killing him.” -Donald Cabana, former Warden, Mississippi State Penitentiary.

    It is a false assumption to think that in the body’s mode of “flight or fight”, when adrenaline hormones are being pumped throughout the body for aggressive, vigorous action, that we are able to pause and think about our fate calmly, about what constitutes manslaughter, grievous hurt, or maybe to check with a lawyer. Plea bargaining in drugs cases here assumes that all couriers, lowest level members in syndicates know enough for “substantively assisting in CNB’s operations to disrupt drug trafficking activities within or outside of Singapore”.

    On the definitions of retribution and revenge, it may be defined differently depending on where the terms are used. However if you look at psychological studies, revenge is called the psychology of retribution. In studies related to perceptions of justice, feelings of revenge have been specifically addressed. They reveal what is called the “revenge paradox” and that “rather than providing closure, [taking our revenge] does the opposite: It keeps the wound open and fresh”.
    Some scientists believe that revenge is a primitive instinct that has been left over from the days of our early ancestors during their struggle for survival as tribes. Additionally that the human race later developed, a forgiveness instinct “that enables people to suppress the desire for revenge and signal their willingness to continue on, even though someone has harmed their interests, assuming the person will refrain from doing so again in the future” (Michael McCullough, PhD, Professor of Psychology at the University of Miami).

    In the April 2011 issue of the European Journal of Social Psychology a study showed that “If the message (the offender’s recognizing of his wrongdoing) is not delivered, it cannot re-establish justice” (Mario Gollwitzer, psychological scientist). This suggests that it is not the form of punishment but the effect of a punishment producing guilt for the offender, as being more valuable to victims of wrongdoing. Therefore capital punishment need not be the only ‘worthy’ punishment for the most violent/serious crimes in relating to the victim’s loved ones, or the victim’s interest. It is another false assumption to think that the victim would want another’s life to be taken away from another family, from another loved one.

    All of the above suggest that justice can be better achieved if the punishment manages to balance the revenge instinct (knowledge of wrongdoer’s guilt) with the forgiveness instinct (on condition that the wrongdoer has reformed). The simplest of generalisations is to kill the worst wrongdoers of our time, and those who remain living will be safe, better for it. However can we still afford such simplistic thinking by ignoring the rigorous but worthy exercise of ethics and ethical standards? Can we still truly believe that a person who ends up on death row is the only one that suffers? What about the family and loved ones, such as children? What is the real social impact of killing prisoners? The executed can no longer commit future wrongdoing to society just as surely as the murder victim can no longer contribute to society. However what is the real cost of giving death to a prisoner, which also renders him/her no longer able to contribute, versus life imprisonment, which still allows some contribution to society (at the very minimum to their families, or prison community)?

    The state takes on the responsibility, and its civil servants carry out the deed, from arrest, prosecution, judgement to execution. Moreover, it is for the sake of the rest of us, for our safety, for society. The state should rightly lay out the real costs of capital punishment. Comprehensive studies should focus on the effects, to the families of victims lost to violent crime, to families of those executed, to health of death row prison staff, to rate of violent crime, to rate of drug offenses, to mental state of death row prisoners in last days leading up to time of execution and to other relevant social factors. The question of why the death penalty did not deter those who committed the crime also needs to be explicitly addressed. An extensive review of other alternative policies practiced in other states and to explicitly state which ones may/ may not be suitable here and why, is also needed.

    Without such information to review before deciding to take a human life seems grossly unethical. All this would have been impossible undertakings 50 years ago during the time of our earlier generation of pioneering leaders but very manageable now in this modern age of research and shared global knowledge systems. Such research and knowledge would also be greatly valued regardless of the findings and Singapore may be better poised and also in urgent need for such comprehensive studies than any other nation due to its population density and limited land mass.

    Soe Min Than Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • It is inhuman to kill another person whatever the reason is. We must not be murderers ourselves.

    I disagree that the reason of death penalty is to deter offender. Most likely he’ll be in jail under the highest security.

    I disagree that the reason of death penalty is to deter others doing heinous crimes. Why must someone be punished to death, to deter something that may or may not be done in the future, moreover by others?

    Since Mr Tan Peng Chin mentioned the Roman Catholic, it forbids killing another person. It’s stated in the Ten Commandments.

    Handaya Rusli Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • I’m against the death penalty due to how it has falsely killed so many people worldwide due to racial (and other) bias. Studies also suggest that it takes more money to send someone to hang than it does to keep them imprisoned forever. The death penalty is also proven to not be a deterrent for crime so much that it is an easy way out for criminals who’d rather die than be imprisoned indefinitely. Also it’s unfair in other ways: sending someone who killed one person to hang vs the same punishment for someone who killed fifteen. They say someone forfeits their right to life when they kill but if they killed fifteen times we can’t kill them fifteen times over, can we? Also it’s plain cruel and medieval to kill people for drug trafficking.

    Drima Chakraborty Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • 1. Simply read Mhd Kadar v PP [2011] SGCA 32 and any fantasies about 200% certainty will be immediately dispelled. What emerges is shocking, to say the least.

    2. If prison life is “hard, meaningless and demoralising”, surely life imprisonment is an effective deterrent.

    3. Who are we really punishing by executing people? I submit it is their family members who effectively, have to endure their relative being legally killed by the State. Why should they be punished instead of the offender having to spend a lifetime reflecting on his crime, apart from society?

    4. Mr Tan touches only on violent crime. What about death penalty for drug mules? His eye for an eye rationale holds no sway here.

    5. Most developed countries have abolished the death penalty. Why?

    Has the lack of executions for the past 50 years resulted in increased crime rates in places like Scandanavia, which enjoys comparable crime rates with Singapore? No.

    It does not effectively deter non-premeditated crime.

    Jared Dass Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • There is no simply convincing evidence that harsher penalties deter crime. In 2012 by a committee of the American National Academy of Sciences National Review Council reviewed 34 years of research on the death penalty and homicide in the US and concluded that “it is impossible to draw credible findings about the effect of the death penalty on homicide”. With – literally – life and death at stake, it is heinously irresponsible and unethical to continue killing human beings on such a shaky foundation.

    Jolene Tan Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • Mr Tan Peng Chin argued that the courts would never impose the death penalty upon someone unless they were 200% sure of his/her guilt. How does he reconcile this 200% confidence with cases where there are dissenting judgements? As Mr Thuraisingam pointed out, there was a dissenting judge in Took Leng How’s case – yet he was executed anyway. As I write this Sarawakian Kho Jabing is sitting on death row even though two out of the five judges on the Court of Appeal bench felt he should not be sentenced to death. Unanimous decisions are not required in Singapore for the death sentence to be imposed or upheld – how is this the overwhelming confidence that Mr Tan described?

    Kirsten Han Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • Both Kho Jabing and Khaddar case shows the resilience and impartiality of the court system in Singapore for the severity of imposing the death penalty.
    The facts of the cases are clear in which the perpetrators are identified.
    In regards to the mens rear argument by critics, it would be better as a considered judgement by the panel rather than the chorus of anti death penalty activists.
    Furthermore, for heinous crimes against children or even serial murderers, it is blatant injustice for the victims or families of such victims to know that such perpetrators remain among them, yet at times, the dismissive arguments and ridicule heaped by such activists are beyond the pale.

    Wang Posted on: Nov 02, 2015

  • Although I am in agreement with TPC’s argument that the death penalty should continue to be imposed, but only “for the very heinous crimes or crimes that cause tremendous harm to society so that criminals or potential criminals will be deterred from committing such crimes” I would like to say that the questions raised by him in the concluding part of his post have little or no bearing in serving as arguments for his stance against the motion for the debate.

    1) Do most people agree that Singapore is a much safer society than many other similar countries?

    Singapore may be a safer society compared with some other countries but the issue of safety may have nothing to do with the fact that the death penalty is a feature of its laws.

    2) If Singapore did not have perceived “draconian” measures against drug trafficking, would we end up having a much more serious drug problem?

    How can we ever provide a meaningful answer without relevant statistics or from past experience, from both sides of the line?

    Countries without the death penalty – do they have higher cases of drug trafficking compared with Singapore? Even if the answer is Yes, other factors, besides the death penalty, may be involved. If the answer is No, does it support the argument that the death penalty is a reason for the lower incidence of drug trafficking? The answer is a resounding NO, as there may be a diversity of factors or reasons.

    Regrettably, both debaters seem to have disregarded the comments posted in the comments section. Nothing specific was raised about pointers made by observers to the debate.

    Richard Woo Posted on: Nov 01, 2015

  • Eugene: I choose life… because the sanctity of life is not something we can take upon ourselves to violate.

    Eugene’s assertion “the sanctity of life is not something we can take upon ourselves to violate” leaves the avenue open for further discussion or debate.

    What does he mean by “sanctity of life”? Is he talking of human life or any kind of life? OK, let’s assume he is referring to human life – and my question is: What about non-human life, say, the cow, the pig, the chicken, etc? And why should only human life be considered sanctimonious, if the term “sanctity” cannot and should not apply to non-human life? Is Eugene connected to a certain religiosity and takes the view that people are made in God’s image and that human life has an inherently sacred attribute that should be protected and respected at all times? If he thinks that sanctity is applicable to human life only, is such thinking based on his religious upbringing? What justification can he provide for thinking that non-human life, unlike human life, is not sanctimonious?

    In his opening statement Eugene has made the claim that it is wrong to kill another person but here he is clearly offering the justification that it is not wrong for a policeman shooting and killing an armed criminal intent on committing mass murder. He says: “…with a known criminal armed with an automatic rifle, there is no doubt that he will commit mass murder if he is not stopped. This — the certainty of harm that will be caused — is the fundamental difference between the state condoning the killing of a person facing the death penalty and the policeman killing an armed criminal with the intention to commit mass murder.”

    Here, Eugene seems to have taken the position that there is no doubt that the armed criminal would kill if he is not killed first; prevention [or deterrence?] is better than cure, as most of us might agree. But how can he justify his certainty that the criminal in question would commit mass murder if left alone? Of course, one has to factor in all relevant factors, to justify one’s actions or thoughts. Can we argue there is a chance that the armed criminal may not commit mass murder if left alone? Appearances alone can be deceptive. However, we can never tell, for sure. So, we may still argue that killing the criminal in the circumstances may be justified, to obviate the risks of him killing other people. If Eugene accepts that it is not wrong in the policeman killing the criminal, in the scenario we have described, then Eugene has to admit that it is not wrong to kill another person – where there is ethical or legal justification for doing so; hence he should now admit that he has made an error of judgment in saying in his opening statement that it is wrong to kill another person.

    Eugene’s concluding comment: “In conclusion, I highlight that the rights and wrongs of the death penalty have been debated over many decades and there is still no clear universal stance taken on it. Perhaps there will never be a universal stance taken, and if so, in the face of such moral dilemma, I say we should always choose life.”

    It is clear: Eugene may choose life while others may prefer death over life.

    Regrettably, both debaters seem to have disregarded the comments posted in the comments section. Nothing specific was raised about pointers made by observers to the debate.

    Richard Woo Posted on: Nov 01, 2015

  • In the case of Kho Jabing which Ms Kirsten Han refers to in her comments in favour of abolishing the death penalty, it was not in doubt that Jabing attempted to rob the deceased, and struck him in the head *at least* twice with a piece of wood without provocation or notice, and with great violence, fracturing the skull. I would have concluded that the death penalty was an appropriate punishment in that case on any view of the facts.

    Yeoh Lian Chuan Posted on: Oct 26, 2015

  • The death sentence should not be abolished, but should only be used on the worst of crimes, because there will always be crimes so heinous and criminals so unrepentant that the best way to deal with them is to execute them.

    From a moral perspective, using massive amounts of public resources to keep such criminals alive would be immoral – why make everyone work harder just so these people can stay alive?

    Also, is it moral to cause the criminal decades of suffering, locked away in prison? If your answer to that is to make prison life good enough so that criminals don’t experience suffering, then is it moral for law-abiding, tax-paying citizens to fund a good life for a criminal?

    From a utilitarian perspective, executing such a criminal would be the moral choice. Good citizens suffer less by not having to fund his imprisonment with their tax dollars, and the criminal suffers less by not having to go through decades of prison life.

    The only alternative I see is if they somehow turn prison into some form of labour camp where the prisoners are put to work to generate equal or greater economic gain that it costs to imprison them – then I would be in support of keeping them alive.

    Chris Posted on: Oct 21, 2015

  • I believe when Mr Thuraisingam suggests that “If we cannot and do not even begin to understand why we are here and where we came from…, then we cannot claim the power to take it away”, it weakens his case. In the first place, those who support keeping the death penalty are not necessarily claiming divine mandate.

    If we follow his argument, then a logical outworking would be that neither can an individual/society claim to know what is ultimately right or wrong, good or evil? If we are uncertain and confused about the purpose/meaning of life, then who or where do we turn to for an objective basis of morality? Interestingly enough, Mr Thuraisingam began with an assertion that “killing another person is wrong” but fail to explain the basis for his moral claim.

    We all desire a society that rightly tempers justice with mercy. Often, the death penalty has been mistaken to be a blunt, cruel instrument of justice. But before we remove it, one should consider its purpose. Would a life sentence suffice for certain heinous crimes? Is justice upheld when the State has to channel resources to care for unrepentant mass murderers? Why is living behind bars more merciful than a death penalty?

    Edwin Wong Posted on: Oct 16, 2015

  • Agreed with the views of Mr Tan Peng Chin

    a) Considering the safeguards presently in place, the factual circumstances especially in the light of DNA evidence leaves little room for doubt for the facts in any death penalty case.
    b) the calls for abolishment ignores the cries of the victims of the crimes especially the families and the children of such crimes.
    c) it is a double injustice that the cries for abolishment only views it from the case of the perpetrators who unless due to actual documented and verified cases of coercion (which case manslaughter may be considered), the death penalty should be imposed.
    d) the abolishment of such severe judicial penalties will leave even more the cases of possibly worse crimes being committed and the families and children of such crimes being made to suffer more since they are aware that the perpetrators of such crimes remain among them in present day Singapore

    Respectfully

    Wang Posted on: Oct 16, 2015

  • In war, people are killed, soldiers are killed. In peacetime, there is also a war which is the war against crime. The ultimate victory against heinous crimes is to kill the criminal, and in doing so the offence is taken away and evened out and the society will have peace.

    If you let the troublemakers against peace in the society to live, you are not doing justice to the society at large. The criminals will be emboldened, seeing that they can kill, traffick drugs and if they are caught, they will not be punished by death since the law of the society is weak against them.

    Hardcore criminals are the cancer of the society which must be rid of. If you have cancer in the body, will you let it grow or kill it before it affect the whole body? Will you be merciful to the cancer in the body and let it spread?

    To rid the society of its cancerous living cells — that is criminals or offenders who committed heinous crimes, these cancerous living cells of the society must be sentenced from being alive in the society. It is medically right to do so for benefit of all the ‘good’ people.

    Mike Posted on: Oct 15, 2015

  • Our justice system shows more sympathy for criminals than it does victims. It’s time we put the emphasis of our criminal justice system back on protecting the victim rather than the accused. Remember, a person who’s on death row has almost always committed crimes before this. A long line of victims have been waiting for justice. We need justice for current and past victims.

    It provides a deterrent for prisoners already serving a life sentence. What about people already sentenced to life in prison. What’s to stop them from murdering people constantly while in prison? What are they going to do–extend their sentences? Sure, they can take away some prison privileges, but is this enough of a deterrent to stop the killing? What about a person sentenced to life who happens to escape? What’s to stop him from killing anyone who might try to bring him in or curb his crime spree?

    DNA testing and other methods of modern crime scene science can now effectively eliminate almost all uncertainty as to a person’s guilt or innocence. One of the biggest arguments against the death penalty is the possibility of error. Sure, we can never completely eliminate all uncertainty, but nowadays, it’s about as close as you can get. DNA testing is over 99 percent effective. And even if DNA testing and other such scientific methods didn’t exist, the trial and appeals process is so thorough it’s next to impossible to convict an innocent person. Remember, a jury of 12 members must unanimously decide there’s not even a reasonable doubt the person is guilty. The number of innocent people that might somehow be convicted is no greater than the number of innocent victims of the murderers who are set free.

    Joseph Posted on: Oct 14, 2015

  • The death penalty gives closure to the victim’s families who have suffered so much. Some family members of crime victims may take years or decades to recover from the shock and loss of a loved one. Some may never recover. One of the things that helps hasten this recovery is to achieve some kind of closure. Life in prison just means the criminal is still around to haunt the victim. A death sentence brings finality to a horrible chapter in the lives of these family members.

    It creates another form of crime deterrent. Crime would run rampant as never before if there wasn’t some way to deter people from committing the acts. Prison time is an effective deterrent, but with some people, more is needed. Prosecutors should have the option of using a variety of punishments in order to minimize crime.

    Justice is better served. The most fundamental principle of justice is that the punishment should fit the crime. When someone plans and brutally murders another person, doesn’t it make sense that the punishment for the perpetrator also be death?

    Dany Posted on: Oct 14, 2015

  • There is still a place for the death penalty today, if and only if, it is carried out against perpetrators of the most severe and vicious of crimes and only when it coheres with the wider society’s inherent sense of justice.

    And if the death penalty can prevent a murderer from murdering again, that will result in innocent lives saved.

    Besides deterrence and prevention, the death penalty also affords some form of rehabilitation: The fear of death is a psychological burden for most and it is in this finality of the outcome that some form of rehabilitation can take place.

    Examples of people on death row taking the opportunity to repent and make amends are plentiful, even though the criminal cannot be rehabilitated and returned to polite society.

    And this karmic argument also coheres with society’s sometimes wonky sense of justification where the belief is that bad things happen to bad people. And hence, the contrary holds that good things must happen to good people.

    It might not straighten the bad person out, but it keeps the good on the straight and narrow. And there is no evidence for this, because one cannot reason from things that did not happen.

    Belmont Lay Posted on: Oct 14, 2015

  • My position is one that does not support the total abolition of the death penalty. I take the view that the death penalty should continue to be imposed but only for crimes of such gravity that without imposing the death penalty there is no question of justice being served. No one should be allowed to escape the death penalty if they have [1] committed murder or mass murder [2] raped or tortured resulting in the death of their human victim[s] [3] killed a human or some humans under contract killing. This list is not exhaustive of course and can be expanded to include other crimes of similar gravity or severity.

    UN rights experts have recently issued a warning that “executions for drug crimes amount to a violation of international law and are unlawful killings.” And it is heartening to note that Singapore has made some changes to the law concerning the death penalty so that it is no longer mandatory and judges in court trials are now given some leeway to consider whether something less than capital punishment is warranted in the circumstances.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment_by_country
    As of July 2015, of the 196 independent states that are UN members or have UN observer status:
    102 have abolished it for all crimes;
    7 have abolished it, but retain it for exceptional or special circumstances (such as crimes committed in wartime);
    50 retain it, but have not used it for at least 10 years or are under a moratorium;
    37 retain it in both law and practice.

    Tan Peng Chin [TPC] has argued principally on “deterrent” as a factor supporting his position for maintaining the death penalty. For one thing, the death penalty has been a part of Singapore’s criminal justice system for so long; but has it really deterred crimes from being committed? Can the number of people sentenced to death over the last 80 years, say, be indicative of its effectiveness? We can never really tell, whether the number can be considered significant or not. A high figure can be interpreted as a case of the death penalty being ineffective, while a low figure can be seen as lending support to its effectiveness. But what sort of baseline or standard should one use to determine what is high or low? Nothing of substance can emanate from there, I suppose. There are too many issues to consider.

    Elsewhere, in other places, in some US cities, for example, it was found that some cities practicing the death penalty were having high crime rates compared with other US cities with death penalty but having low crime rates.

    This assertion of TPC seems self-defeating: “Many of us who have never been imprisoned before cannot imagine how hard, meaningless and demoralising prison life can be. Even though all of us believe that life is precious, very few appreciate what a living hell life imprisonment can be. Some proponents against the death penalty seem to forget that sooner or later, all of us will die.” If prison life is so bad or so hellish, why should we bother with capital punishment?

    Another assertion of TPC: “I was a volunteer with the Roman Catholic Prison Ministry for many years, and based on my interaction with many prisoners, including hardcore criminals, I have concluded that the only punishment that criminals are afraid of, is the death penalty.”

    The prisoners who expressed such a sentiment had probably not considered the consequences of their actions that could plausibly lead to capital punishment; if they had weighed and considered, then they should have no reason to be talking like that, after the fact.

    Eugene says: “To kill another person is wrong. Why should that be any different when killing takes place in the name of the state?”

    Killing another person is not always wrong, however. How could it be held to be wrong if, say, A killed B in self-defense? B would have killed A if A had not acted in self-defense. In a war there is no question of wrong or right; you kill your foe or your foe will kill you.

    Let’s consider this assertion of Eugene: “We cannot and do not even begin to understand why we are here and where we came from. If we cannot even answer where life comes from, how on earth can we claim the power to take it away?”

    We may not have the answer to why we are here or where we came from, but we have the intelligence in putting in place a justice system for the purpose of providing safety, protection and social order to the community as a whole. And the power to forfeit, say, the life of a person is one that is conferred under the aforesaid justice system, which arose through a collective decision. As the death penalty was the result of a collective decision at institutional level, it can be abolished through a decision exercised similarly.

    Of course, miscarriages of justice have occurred – involving the death penalty or otherwise. There is no way we can restore a person’s life once that person has been put to death. The greatest reason for abolishing the death penalty is the plausibility of committing an error of judgment by holding someone guilty when that person is in fact innocent and then sentencing the person to death. And that’s why type 1 errors are taboo to those administering punishment.

    Richard Woo Posted on: Oct 14, 2015

  • In the same vein or rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s… If you choose to live in Singapore, you cannot choose not to abide by its laws. Stop comparing with other countries. Speak and act for what is relevant in this country you choose to call home.

    Sheldon Posted on: Oct 13, 2015

  • PRO: “Society is justly ordered when each person receives what is due to him. Crime disturbs this just order, for the criminal takes from people their lives, peace, liberties, and worldly goods in order to give himself undeserved benefits. Deserved punishment protects society morally by restoring this just order, making the wrongdoer pay a price equivalent to the harm he has done. This is retribution, not to be confused with revenge, which is guided by a different motive. In retribution the spur is the virtue of indignation, which answers injury with injury for public good… Retribution is the primary purpose of just punishment as such… [R]ehabilitation, protection, and deterrence have a lesser status in punishment than retribution.”
    The crimes of rape, torture, treason, kidnapping, murder, larceny, and perjury pivot on a moral code that escapes apodictic [indisputably true] proof by expert testimony or otherwise. But communities would plunge into anarchy if they could not act on moral assumptions less certain than that the sun will rise in the east and set in the west. Abolitionists may contend that the death penalty is inherently immoral because governments should never take human life, no matter what the provocation. But that is an article of faith, not of fact. The death penalty honors human dignity by treating the defendant as a free moral actor able to control his own destiny for good or for ill; it does not treat him as an animal with no moral sense

    Zeus Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • In a larger sense, capital punishment is the ultimate warning against all crimes. If the criminal knows that the justice system will not stop at putting him to death, then the system appears more draconian to him. Not all, but many criminals who ride the fence on committing murder ultimately decide to spare the victim’s life.
    A system in place for the purpose of granting justice cannot do so for the surviving victims, unless the murderer himself is put to death.
    The justice system basically attempts to mete out punishment that fits the crime. Severe crimes result in imprisonment. ”Petty larceny” is not treated with the severity that is meted to “grand theft auto,” and the latter, consequently, receives more time in prison. So if severe—but non-lethal—violence toward another is found deserving of life without parole, then why should premeditated homicide be given the very same punishment? This fact might induce a would-be criminal to go ahead and kill the victim he has already mugged and crippled. Why would it matter, after all? His sentence could not get any worse.If murder is the willful deprivation of a victim’s right to life, then the justice system’s willful deprivation of the criminal’s right to the same is—even if overly severe—a punishment which fits the most severe crime that can be committed. Without capital punishment, it could be argued that the justice system makes no provision in response to the crime of murder, and thus provides no justice for the victim.

    Archie tan Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

  • First a reminder of the basic argument behind retribution and punishment:

    all guilty people deserve to be punished
    only guilty people deserve to be punished
    guilty people deserve to be punished in proportion to the severity of their crime
    This argument states that real justice requires people to suffer for their wrongdoing, and to suffer in a way appropriate for the crime. Each criminal should get what their crime deserves and in the case of a murderer what their crime deserves is death

    Life imprisonment without parole does not protects society adequately. The offender may no longer be a danger to the public, but he remains a danger to prison staff and other inmates. Execution would remove that danger.

    Plea bargaining is used in most countries. It’s the process through which a criminal gets a reduced sentence in exchange for providing help to the police.

    Where the possible sentence is death, the prisoner has the strongest possible incentive to try to get their sentence reduced.

    Boris Lee Posted on: Oct 12, 2015

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