Friday, June 30, 2006

One Country Two Systems

The Michael McCrae case was big news today, appearing on the front page of the Straits Times. However, it was the less prominent page 6 TODAY report that caught my attention; in particular, the headline; Orchard Towers murderer jailed for 24 years. Anyone who is not familiar with the history of this case would find this headline puzzling. Why? Because Singapore is one of those 'backward' countries that still enforces the 'barbaric' death penalty. So if Michael McCrae was guilty of murder, he should have been sentenced to hang. If he received a jail sentence, then it is wrong for TODAY to label him a murderer. In fact McCrae was not even charged with the crime of murder in the first place, so of course it is wrong to call him a murderer.

Actually, I have blogged briefly about this case before. After committing his crime, this guy escaped to Britain and then to Australia where he confessed to the crime. Because the Australians do not believe in the death penalty, they refused to extradite him to Singapore. In the end, we had to give the Australians an assurance that he would not be executed even if he was found guilty, before they would release him to Singapore. As the learned ex-DPP, Mr Wang says; "Duh. Well, of course if the Singapore government had promised not to execute McCrea, then the prosecution would have brought lesser charges. You wouldn't proceed on murder, if you had already told the Australian government that McCrea wouldn't be hanged, right?"

Actually, the headline of the Straits Times article was also quite puzzling. "Briton receives stiff 24 years for killing two." Compared to the death penalty that Nguyen Tuong Van received for trafficking (how many) grams/kilograms of heroin, 24 years for killing two is a bargain. The article went into some detail to describe McCrae's surprise at receiving such a heavy sentence. Frankly, if the same 'murderer' was a Singaporean, I am pretty sure he would have received the death sentence. So McCrae should be happy he only got 24 years. If I were the government, I would try him for murder; and if found guilty, sentence him to hang; and then advice the President to commute it to life sentence, making it clear that this was only to because we want to honour a promise made to the Australians, a promise which shouldn't have been made in the first place.

I also find Mr Wang's conclusion quite puzzling. He says; "Anyway, I think that this was a good result, all things considered. If the Singapore government had not entered into those arrangements with the Australian government, McCrea would never have been brought here and convicted at all."

A young man is executed for trafficking drugs; but this man kills two people and only goes to jail for 24 years is a good result. Our country refusing to give way to the Australians demands not to hang Tuong because 'we are a sovereign country', but compromises in this case is a good result. That future murderers will know how to beat our system is a good result.


I think it is a disgraceful result.

6 comments:

Mr Wang Says So said...

Okay lor, don't compromise. Let McCrea be a free man in Australia.

Is that a more "graceful" result to you?

Sleepless in Singapore said...

Ah so desu ka? So this is how a top legal mine works. Too bad I am a simpleton who understands only black or white, right or wrong ...

Mikhail said...

If I were the government, I would try him for murder; and if found guilty, sentence him to hang; and then advice the President to commute it to life sentence, making it clear that this was only to because we want to honour a promise made to the Australians, a promise which shouldn't have been made in the first place.

The problem is: If the government didn't promise the Aussies that it would not hang McCrae, the Aussies would not have extradited McCrae to be tried in Singapore.

Better to charge him for murder, find him guilty. Then ask President Nathan to commute it to life sentence.

Making tax-payers pay for his sorry existence until his dying day just doesn't quite cut it either.

Mickell said...

Disgraceful result indeed.

Chris said...

This aside, I'm sure you've read that Arroyo has abolished the death sentence in the Philippines. I caught part of the news on tv where they interviewed a prisoner who expressed that he would rather be sentenced to death then be put on life sentence. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, a group of prisoners on death row are starting a petition of sort to protest against abolishing the death sentence. Dead or alive. We can't please everybody....

Sleepless in Singapore said...

Today, the defence lawyers wrote to the ST forum explaining why McCrae was not charged with murder. I don't buy it.

Yes - I know nuts about the law. But from what I have seen in past cases; it often looks very subjective or grey; in fact I would go so far as to say, its rather arbitrary. For example, the psychologists engaged to assess the accused's state of mind invariably gives different opinions (just like in the hollywood tv legal dramas). Often the judge accepts the side of the prosecution.

So I still say; had McCrae been a Sporean, he surely would hang.