Death penalty no longer automatic for some offences: DPM Teo

Judges will be given discretion to impose life imprisonment instead of death penalty in certain specific instances of drug trafficking and murder.

This comes after a review of the death penalty by the Ministry of Home Affairs in December 2010. It had deferred all executions since it began reviewing drug cases in July last year.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Teo Chee Hean said in Parliament on Monday that the review reaffirmed the relevance of the death penalty for all the offences to which it currently applies.

Mr Teo said that for drug trafficking, mandatory drug penalty will continue to apply except where two 'specific, tightly-defined' conditions are both met.

First, the person must have only played the role of a courier. He or she must not have been involved in any other activity related to drug supply or distribution.

Second, the person must have cooperated with authorities in a "substantive" way, or has a mental disability that "substantially imapirs" his judgment of the gravity of the act.

Other than these instances, the death penalty will remain, such as for drug kingpins and distributors, said DPM Teo.

Minister for Law K Shanmugam, who spoke after DPM Teo in Parliament, said that in respect of how the mandatory death penalty applies to cases amounting to murder, the Government intends to apply capital punishment only when there is an intention to kill.

He said that those intended to cause the death of their victims should be punished with the most severe penalty, and that the law should have a provision for the most powerful deterrent in these sorts of cases.

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