Avoid pressuring judges in sentencing: Shanmugam

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam speaking at an Institute of Policy Studies forum on Sept 8.
Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam speaking at an Institute of Policy Studies forum on Sept 8. PHOTO: ST FILE

While the death of a woman who was tortured has angered many Singaporeans, the public should avoid putting pressure on judges when it comes to sentencing.

This point was made by Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam in a Facebook post yesterday morning, in the wake of a public backlash relating to Ms Annie Ee's case. The 26-year-old waitress with intellectual disabilities died after daily beatings by her flatmates over a period of eight months.

Earlier this month, Tan Hui Zhen, 33, was sentenced to 16½ years' jail, and her husband Pua Hak Chuan, 38, was given 14 years' jail and 14 strokes of the cane.

The victim had suffered 12 fractured ribs, seven fractured vertebrae and a ruptured stomach.

Mr Shanmugam wrote: "I can understand the anger that many feel. At the same time, I am troubled by how some people have expressed their views."

Some questioned why the couple were not charged with murder, an online petition seeking harsher sentences was filed and, as Mr Shanmugam also pointed out, "aspersions were cast on the defence lawyers' characters".

He said that Singaporeans "must have the confidence that our judges will do the right thing" and that "the sentence that a defendant gets... must not depend on how the public react during the case".

Adhering to the rule of law "means that the person is entitled to have his lawyer put forward the strongest possible arguments in his favour", he added.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 21, 2017, with the headline 'Avoid pressuring judges in sentencing: Shanmugam'. Print Edition | Subscribe