Senior Counsel & WP’s Harpreet Singh Rejected Case By Death Row Prisoners

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Four prisoners in Singapore wanted to get foreign lawyers to act for them. All four were given the death sentence for trafficking heroin. Years ago, they failed to appeal against the sentence. Now, they want to change tack by challenging the constitution. They claimed they were presumed guilty rather than “innocent until proven guilty”.

They wanted lawyers from the UK and Australia. However, their applications were dismissed because there was no special reason to get foreign lawyers. Unhappy, the inmates argued that foreign counsels have more expertise than local lawyers. They claimed that local counsels were not available and said they were denied access to legal resources.

Lack of Local Counsels?

In reality, it is not that local counsels were not available. They just did not see a point in the case. Even Senior Counsel and Workers’ Party member Harpreet Singh rejected it because he saw no merit in taking it up. Singh has been a Senior Counsel for more than a decade. Surely he has good reasons for not helping them.

“In our view, the facts of the 4 cases are such that the pending challenge has no merit. We do not think it is even fairly arguable that the convictions in the 4 pending cases were based upon the use of double presumptions.”

From left: Harpreet Singh and Gerald Giam of WP

There is a difference between having a lack of local counsels and getting rejected by them. In fact, one of the inmates’ family member approached as many as 15 lawyers. Six replied that they were unable to act while the rest chose not to respond.

Foreign Counsels Have More Expertise?

Another argument by the inmates is that foreign counsels have more expertise as compared to local counsels. This was established to be false because both of the foreign lawyers they wanted did not actually have a lot of experience in judicial review applications. There was no reason to grant them exceptions and temporarily admit them into the Singapore Bar. Why specifically them though?

From left: Edward Fitzgerald and M Ravi

Lack of Access to Legal Resources?

The inmates claimed that they were deprived of access to legal resources. This is ironic given that some of their legal documents were drafted by a Malaysian lawyer. Furthermore, they could liaise with local and foreign counsels even though they were behind bars. If they were were denied access to legal resources, how did they reach out to foreign counsels in UK and Australia?

Is this an attempt to escape their sentence? Why do it when they were aware of the consequences?

The four drug traffickers are: Jumaat Mohamed Sayed, Saminathan Selvaraju, Datchinamurthy Kataiah and Lingkesvaran Rajendaren.

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