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Online claims that Orchard Towers offenders were treated leniently due to race ‘baseless, irresponsible’: Faishal Ibrahim

SINGAPORE — Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim told Parliament on Wednesday (Nov 4) that social media posts alleging that offenders in the Orchard Towers fatal brawl case got off lightly because of their race were “totally baseless and highly irresponsible”.

Police officers standing guard at the entrance of Orchard Towers on July 2, 2019, where a man died after being slashed with a knife.

Police officers standing guard at the entrance of Orchard Towers on July 2, 2019, where a man died after being slashed with a knife.

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  • Assoc Prof Faishal stressed that the criminal justice system does not give any preferential treatment
  • He said the sentences take into account the culpability and the involvement of each accused person
  • He was responding to a supplementary question by Choa Chu Kang MP Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim
  • Assoc Prof Faishal also brought up the case of a group attack that killed a man at St James Power Station in 2017 where the offenders were Malay

 

SINGAPORE — Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim told Parliament on Wednesday (Nov 4) that social media posts alleging that offenders in the Orchard Towers fatal brawl case got off lightly because of their race were “totally baseless and highly irresponsible”.

The Minister of State for Home Affairs added that the offenders in question were dealt with according to the law.

He was responding to a supplementary question by Mr Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim, Member of Parliament for Chua Chu Kang Group Representation Constituency, who asked about his views on the sentences meted out in the Orchard Towers murder case.

Mr Zhulkarnain also asked if the sentences were in accordance with precedent and sentencing guidelines.

Reiterating points made by the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) in a recent statement, Assoc Prof Faishal stressed that the criminal justice system does not give any preferential treatment based on race, religion, socio-economic status or educational achievements.

Instead, the charges and the sentences take into account the culpability and the involvement of each accused person.

Breaking down the process for handling capital offences, such as murder, kidnapping and the trafficking of large amount of drugs, Assoc Prof Faishal said a holding charge may be laid against suspects at first.

If there are multiple accused persons involved in the same case, they will all face the same holding charge and be held in remand until further investigations are conducted.

Subsequently, law enforcement agencies will make recommendations to the AGC and prosecutors will review the evidence and circumstances of the case and consider the specific role of each accused person before coming up with the appropriate course of action.

"This can be to proceed with the capital charge, apply a lesser charge or charges, or to withdraw the charge," said Assoc Prof Faishal, adding that there have been reductions in charges in previous cases such as the Downtown East murder case in 2010 and the Pandan Loop murder case in 2014.

In the Orchard Towers case, all seven individuals were initially charged with the murder of 31-year-old Satheesh Noel Gobidass on July 2 last year.

The AGC said in its statement that the charges against six of the accused persons were reduced after thorough investigations found that they were not involved in causing Satheesh’s death.

Tan Sen Yang, 28, is the only one facing a murder charge for the death of Satheesh.

Four of the seven accused persons in the high-profile case — namely Ang Da Yuan, Natalie Siow, Joel Tan and Chan Jia Xing — have been prosecuted. Chan, the latest to be charged, walked free after being given a year-long conditional warning.

News of Chan’s sentence last month had resulted in several social media posts that suggested that the court imposes sentences on offenders on account of their race, with harsher sentences given if they are a member of a minority race.

Less than a week after its first statement, the AGC issued a further clarification on the reasons that four of those involved in the high-profile case received the sentences that were meted out to them.

In Parliament, Assoc Prof Faishal also brought up the case of a group attack that killed a man at St James Power Station in 2017, where the offenders were Malay, to make the point that the offenders in this latest case were handled similarly.

“Overall, the offenders’ charges in this case reflected the premeditated plan to attack the deceased, their respective culpability and involvement, and the sentences imposed were consistent with the sentencing benchmark,” he added.

The police on Monday said that they have acted on authorisation orders from the AGC to initiate investigations into two women who made social media posts that alleged preferential treatment based on the race of the people involved in the Orchard Towers incident.

The two women — aged 28 and 36 — are being investigated for contempt of court.

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orchard towers murder Parliament court crime

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