Death row inmate’s conviction quashed

By K.C. Vijayan
The Straits Times
Monday, Mar 11, 2013

SINGAPORE – DEATH row inmate Mervin Singh was spared the gallows on Friday when the Court of Appeal quashed his conviction for drug trafficking.

The 37-year-old had been sentenced to hang after being caught with a pink box containing nine packets of heroin.

He denied knowing that the drugs were inside, saying he thought he was transporting a consignment of contraband cigarettes. On Friday, his four-year ordeal came to an end after the Appeals Court ruled in his favour.

The inmate looked calm when his conviction was set aside. “I slept well last night,” he said as he was being taken away, and thanked his lawyer Selva Naidu.

Singh was caught with 186.62g of heroin on him at a Housing Board block in Tampines in November 2008.

His lawyers argued that he had gone there to collect contraband cigarettes and did not know there were drugs in the pink box. But this was contradicted by an officer from the Central Narcotics Bureau, who said he saw Singh open it and look inside.

During the appeal, however, the court raised doubts about the officer’s testimony. It pointed out he was about 81m away at the time and did not have binoculars. His claim that Singh looked inside the box was also not reflected in his earlier statement.

“None of the other officers at the scene could verify that Singh had in fact opened the box to look inside it,” said the court, comprising Judges of Appeal Chao Hick Tin, Andrew Phang and V.K. Rajah. They added that Singh’s DNA was not discovered on any of the exhibits sent for analysis, including the pink box and samples of the newspapers used to wrap the nine packets.

The court found that he was a dealer in contraband cigarettes and had been caught by Customs officers and fined $500 just days before his arrest.

But it said that on “balance of probabilities”, it had not been established that he knew the box contained heroin.

Singh, who still faces drug consumption charges, was remanded in custody.

On Friday, his co-accused Subashkaran Pragasam had his appeal against his drug trafficking conviction turned down.

The 29-year-old was sentenced to death alongside Singh last October following a two-year trial. He is said to have taken the pink box containing the drugs from his 10th-storey flat and left it inside a lift for Singh to collect at the ground floor.

The court made clear both men were involved in different parts of the same transaction and the issues raised were different.

Unlike Singh, Subashkaran did leave traces of DNA on the box and newspaper samples.

“Given the different issues raised, a finding of culpability in respect of one appellant would not automatically result in a similar finding in respect of the other appellant,” it found.

Source: Asiaone