A drugs trafficker was spared reformative training even after an appeals court found that it had been wrong to just sentence him to probation.
As Adith Sarvotham, 18, had already served a good part of his probation term by the time his appeal was heard in April, it would have been unfair to re-sentence him.
Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon said there would be an "element of double punishment".
He also issued guidelines to ensure such appeals are no longer delayed to the point which would result in the offender serving most of his sentence.
Adith had pleaded guilty last year to consuming and growing cannabis as well as trafficking. He was sentenced by the district court to three years' probation, which included 240 hours of community service and 12 months' residence at a prescribed hostel.
Prosecutors appealed to the High Court arguing that the probation order was inadequate and called for reformative training instead.
Such trainees spend up to 36 months behind bars under a special regime for offenders aged under 21.
In judgment grounds released yesterday, CJ Menon agreed that the "litany of serious offences" committed would ordinarily have justified reformative training. "There was nothing exceptional about the facts presented which suggested that (Adith)'s capacity for rehabilitation was so demonstrably high that a term of probation would be sufficient."
But CJ Menon found himself in a "quandary" as Adith had already served some six months of his probation term in The New Charis Mission residential facility and was in remand for the preceding six months before he was sentenced. He had had also completed the 240 hours of community service.
CJ Menon cited two other cases where the offenders were sentenced to probation but the court declined to change the sentence as they had already served part of their probation by the time the appeal was heard.
In Adith's case, prosecutors had last November sought a stay of the probation pending their appeal. This was turned down by the same district judge who gave the sentence.
To prevent a recurrence, CJ Menon made it clear that the court deciding the application for a stay should weigh the prosecution's case against how prejudicial it would be for the offender to delay the start of sentence.
Among other things, the appeal could be heard on an urgent basis if a stay of the sentence ordered would prejudice the convicted offender.
Said CJ Menon: "(Adith) should consider himself extremely fortunate in the circumstances and at the conclusion of the appeal, I urged him to make the best of this opportunity and to turn over a new leaf."
This article was first published on May 29, 2014.
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