SINGAPORE - A judge took the unusual step of dropping a trafficking charge against a drug offender, after hearing that he planned to kill himself by taking the large haul of methamphetamine he was found with.
Singaporean Brendan Aw, 35, was nabbed with 108g of methamphetamine, or Ice, in a Mountbatten Road hotel room in February last year. He was charged with trafficking, which carries a maximum 20-year jail sentence and 15 strokes of the cane.
Initially defending himself, he told the court that his “aim had been to end (his) life” after his girlfriend was sent back to China for immigration offences. She then gave birth to a boy who died a short time later.
After a six-day trial, the court found that independent evidence supported his account of his acute depression and District Judge Low Wee Ping said he was not convinced beyond reasonable doubt by the prosecution’s case.
He found that, among other things, this was not a typical case of a trafficker being caught at Woodlands Checkpoint or Changi Airport with a large haul.
“It was just too easy to rely on the presumption of trafficking in these circumstances,” he said.
The judge found that even if the entire amount was not for Aw’s use, a “substantial amount” was. “It therefore could not be presumed that the accused had the 108.96g...for the purpose of trafficking,” he wrote in judgement grounds released last month.
The judge amended the charge to drug possession, which has a maximum 10-year sentence.
He jailed Aw for three years, after he pleaded guilty.
The prosecution filed an appeal, which it later dropped.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Low Chun Yee had urged the court not to believe Aw’s claim that the drug was for his own use and argued that he had not shown he had the means to buy it.
The judge found the submissions “very persuasive”, but ruled that alternative conclusions could be drawn based on the totality of defence submissions.
Among other things, Aw’s lawyer, Mr M. Kalidass, had obtained five medical reports on Aw from the prosecution. The judge expressed surprise at this as he found that Aw had initially tried to obtain these reports on his own, but was told by the hospitals and Institute of Mental Health (IMH) that there were none.
One showed Aw had overdosed six months before his arrest, which resulted in his being warded and transferred to IMH.
Medical evidence showed he was suffering from “serious psychiatric ailments”.
Aw’s telephone records also did not show any message linked to drug trafficking. Instead the messages were about arranging work permits for “China girls”, as he was said to be a pimp.
The court agreed with the defence lawyer – who was commended for taking on the case pro bono – that the circumstances of the case “were exceptional”.
This article was first published on November 25, 2014. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.