The cogs of justice may spin slowly, but sometimes they do move in the right direction.
After Justice Steven Ching threw out the drug consumption related conviction of odd-job labourer Lim, on the basis that his confession could not be relied upon for conviction without scientific evidence that he had actually consumed the drug, lawyers reported that several drug cases have also been affected. Judge Thian Yee Sze also adjourned the cases of a man and a woman facing drug consumption related charges, using similar reasoning.
The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) now have to bear the unfamiliar onus of demonstrating to the High Court that the testing procedures of the Health Sciences Authority are not as complacent as the security measures at Whitley Road Detention Centre. Or the drainage maintenance schedules of the PUB. Tree inspection programs of the NParks. Oh, you get the drift.
Given the guilty unless proven innocent approach typical of the Singapore Police Force, one seldom hears of the forensic work that routinely despatches many unfortunates to the gallows. But German national Julia Suzanne Bohl escaped an appointment with veteran hangman Darshan Singh after laboratory tests showed the amount of pure drugs found in her apartment weighed only 281 grams, less than the 500 gram limit for cannabis which automatically invokes mandatory death sentencing in Singapore. There were no details about the accuracy of the measuring instruments used in the determination, how much of the abusive substance was lost in the handling of the powdery evidence, or if the same Health Sciences Authority laboratory tests were used by the cops. It was also the first time the purity of the drug was raised by the defence in a drug related case. Some credit the efficiency of the German government officials for applying pressure on Singapore, threatening economic reprisals. Bohl's 5 year jail sentence was also reduced to 3. While we applaud the humanitarian efforts for not stretching her pretty little neck, Amara Tochi of Nigeria was hanged over 15 grams of heroin. Neither the accuracy of the quantity nor the purity of the offending substance was challenged in court. You don't have to be a dope pusher to appreciate that the trade is such that all along the supply route -- from the poppy fields of Afghanistan to the streets -- the drugs are likely to be cut and diluted with various substances to increase the profit margins.
Discussion of the handling of drug offences in his book could have ruffled feathers and landed Alan Shadrake in hot soup. That should dissuade the likes of fellow author Ross Worthington from landing at Changi Airport until the system of justice sorts itself out.