Drug courier’s death penalty reduced to life sentence in split decision by Court of Appeal

The Court of Appeal overturned Roszaidi Osman's death sentence in a 3-2 decision. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE – A man who was convicted of drug trafficking for handing two packets of heroin to his pregnant wife escaped the gallows on Thursday, after the Court of Appeal overturned his death sentence in a 3-2 decision.

Roszaidi Osman, 50, was instead sentenced to life imprisonment, after the majority found that his major depressive disorder and substance use disorder had substantially impaired his mental responsibility for his acts.

The majority said that the combination of the disorders had a “real and material” effect on his ability to resist the urge to procure and consume drugs, on his decision to traffic drugs as a means to feed his drug habit, as well as on his act of giving the drugs to his wife.

Roszaidi, who began consuming cannabis when he was 10 and was plagued by drug-related problems for most of his adult life, began delivering drugs in July 2015.

He started to suffer from depression in May 2015, after his mother and grandmother died.

His drug consumption – of heroin, methamphetamine and dormicum – rose as a result, and he obtained much of his supply from the drugs he was to deliver.

On the night of Oct 6, 2015, Mohammad Azli Mohammad Salleh, who was a friend, drove Roszaidi to collect a bag of drugs from two Malaysians who were in a parked lorry.

While awaiting instructions on what to do with the drugs, Roszaidi called his wife and told her that he needed her to “come down to take something” from him and to take along a plastic bag. He did not tell her he was handing her drugs.

Azli then drove to Jurong West Street 91, where Roszaidi passed the drugs to his wife, who was waiting by the road.

Roszaidi was given the mandatory death penalty for trafficking in 32.54g of pure heroin by the High Court in January 2019.

In his appeal, his lawyer, Mr Eugene Thuraisingam, sought to have his sentence reduced on the grounds that he was suffering from an abnormality of mind that substantially impaired his mental responsibility for his acts.

On Thursday, the majority of the five-judge panel – Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Justices Judith Prakash and Belinda Ang – said Roszaidi’s decision to traffic drugs was significantly influenced by his need to obtain drugs for his own consumption.

“In our judgment, this decision was not a reasoned choice or the consequence of rational judgment, but rather ‘the product of a disordered mind’... caused by the overriding force of his substance use disorder when it was exacerbated by his major depressive disorder,” said CJ Menon.

“These mental disorders impaired his ability to control his actions to the extent that his overriding preoccupation at the relevant time was procuring and consuming drugs.”

The majority said that by giving the drugs to his innocent and heavily pregnant wife, Roszaidi had acted impulsively and irrationally in a moment of panic, showing his decision-making ability was impaired.

Justices Andrew Phang and Steven Chong, however, rejected Roszaidi’s claim that there was a causal link between his depression and his alleged increased drug dependence. The minority concluded that Roszaidi’s rational judgment was not sufficiently impaired at the time, and that he was thinking in a logical and organised manner.

The transfer of the drugs to his wife appeared to have been motivated by self-preservation, said the two judges. After collecting the drugs, Roszaidi became scared when he realised that they were heavier than he expected and devised an alternative plan to offload the drugs to his wife for safekeeping, they said.

The fact that Roszaidi’s wife subsequently became implicated was the unintended consequence of his deliberate decision to avoid detection by the CNB, said the dissenting judges in their decision.

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