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Murderer given life term under amended laws

SINGAPORE — Malaysian Fabian Adiu Edwin, 23, yesterday became the first convicted murderer to escape the death penalty since the Penal Code and Misuse of Drugs Act were amended to remove the mandatory death sentence for certain types of homicide and drug-trafficking offences.

Murderer given life term under amended laws

Singapore

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SINGAPORE — Malaysian Fabian Adiu Edwin, 23, yesterday became the first convicted murderer to escape the death penalty since the Penal Code and Misuse of Drugs Act were amended to remove the mandatory death sentence for certain types of homicide and drug-trafficking offences.

The changes to the law took effect this year. Edwin, from Sabah, was two months shy of his 19th birthday when he committed the crime. He was convicted and sentenced to hang in September 2011 for murdering security guard Loh Ee Hui, 35. He lost his appeal last August.

He and his friend, Ellarry Puling, 29, were looking for a victim to rob in the early hours of Aug 23, 2008, and found Loh at a Sims Ave bus stop.

Edwin, a construction worker, and Ellarry, a cleaner, fancied Loh’s Nokia mobile phone. Edwin used a wood block he had taken along to hit his victim thrice on the head, cracking his skull. Loh died later in hospital.

Ellarry was jailed last March for 19 years and given 24 strokes of the cane for robbery with hurt.

Following the amendments to the legislation, the case was sent back to the courts for resentencing.

Delivering the sentence yesterday, High Court Judge Chan Seng Onn reminded Edwin that he had committed murder. But he regarded Edwin’s young age at the time of offence and his subnormal IQ as factors that “tilted the balance” in his favour. He sentenced Edwin to life imprisonment and 24 strokes of the cane.

The prosecution had argued that Edwin deserved the death penalty as his case was one that “would outrage the feelings of the community”.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Seraphina Fong noted that 25 cases of fatal assaults in the course of robbery had been committed since 2003, with four in 2008 by young foreign workers like Edwin.

The death penalty was the strongest signal the courts could send to denounce these opportunistic and heinous crimes, she said.

She argued that Edwin’s youth and below-average IQ of 77 to 85 were insufficient to warrant a recession from the death penalty.

The court had previously stated that Edwin knew what he was doing at the time, she said.

With the death penalty mandatory for murder at the time, Justice Chan said proceedings were to determine if he was liable for the offence.

The defence noted that the discretionary death penalty also applies in kidnapping cases, and Edwin’s lawyer, Mr Anand Nalachandran, cited a Court of Appeal judgment by then Chief Justice Wee Chong Jin that “the legislature in fixing the maximum penalty for a criminal offence intends it only for the worst cases”.

Edwin’s case was the first occasion for a sentencing judge to consider mitigation before deciding the appropriate sentence for murder in Singapore and life imprisonment should be the default position, with the death sentence “the exception rather than the rule”, argued Mr Nalachandran.

The death penalty should be imposed only when the offender’s conduct or the facts of the offence “shock the judicial and/or public conscience” — and it was not appropriate for Edwin’s case, he said, adding that life imprisonment is itself a deterrent.

Referring to the prosecution’s statistics on robbery-cum-murder cases, he noted that such crimes have declined, with one to two cases a year since 2008.

Edwin was calm when the sentence was delivered and Mr Nalachandran said his client accepted it.

In April, Abdul Haleem Abdul Karim was the first drug trafficker to escape the death penalty under the amended laws. He satisfied the conditions of having played only the role of a courier and of providing substantive assistance to the Central Narcotics Bureau in disrupting drug trafficking activities.

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