Drug trafficker on death row gets life sentence

A 31-year-old drug trafficker on death row became the first to be re-sentenced to life imprisonment as a result of his mental illness on Monday, under new drug laws that took effect last year.

Malaysian Dinesh Pillai Reja Retnam had been sentenced to hang for trafficking 19.35g of heroin in 2011. His appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal the following year.

The death penalty used to be mandatory for those caught dealing in controlled drugs above a certain weight, such as 15g or more for heroin.

But under Singapore's new drug laws, judges can give life imprisonment and caning instead of death to drug couriers who are certified by the Attorney-General's Chambers to have substantively helped the authorities. Those who have mental illnesses that make them less responsible for their actions also qualify.

In Dinesh Pillai's case, he fell under the latter category as he was suffering from major depression when he committed the offence in December 2009.


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