Five court volunteers lauded for dedication

Mr James Masih (at left) and Mr Steven Lam were among five volunteers of the Supreme Court, the State Courts and the Family Justice Courts who received awards for their outstanding commitment and dedication to pro bono work from Chief Justice Sundare
Mr James Masih (at left) and Mr Steven Lam were among five volunteers of the Supreme Court, the State Courts and the Family Justice Courts who received awards for their outstanding commitment and dedication to pro bono work from Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel yesterday.PHOTO: STATE COURTS

Among them is defence lawyer who saved a man convicted of murder from gallows

Lawyer James Masih, 67, takes on about three cases that involve capital offences every year.

In 2001, for example, he represented a Thai national convicted of murder at his appeal hearing and saved the man from the gallows.

Yesterday, Mr Masih and four other volunteers of the Supreme Court, the State Courts and the Family Justice Courts received awards for their outstanding commitment and dedication to pro bono work.

Mr Masih, who received the Legal Assistance Scheme for Capital Offences (Lasco) Award, has been a lawyer for 33 years. Lasco was started to ensure access to justice for those facing a capital charge.

Mr Masih said: "Every case is different, it is a new challenge.

"We get a lot of satisfaction when we do our best, especially if the client is innocent."

The 2001 case involved Saeng-Un Udom from Thailand, who was convicted of killing another Thai national at a worksite.

In 2000, Udom admitted in police statements that he wanted to kill the other man and struck him on the head with an iron rod while the victim was asleep.

However, at the appeal hearing the following year, a pathologist testified under Mr Masih's cross-examination that the injury was actually caused by a sharp heavy instrument like a chopper and not an iron rod.

Remnants of hair at the scene also indicated the use of a sharp instrument.

Eventually, the Court of Appeal found there was some doubt that Udom had struck the fatal blows.

His death sentence was overturned and he was jailed for 10 years for attempted murder.

Yesterday's awards were given out by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel.

The other winners were Mr Krishna Veerappen, Mr Steven Lam, Mr Amolat Singh and Mr Shaun Lim Sheng Kang.

A media statement described the five winners as part of a 350-strong pool of court volunteers who have demonstrated their personal commitment to assisting the courts in the delivery of justice.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2017, with the headline 'Five court volunteers lauded for dedication'. Print Edition | Subscribe