Prison bans UK journalist over secret interview

A reporter with the British daily newspaper Daily Mail has been barred by the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) from making further visits to British drug trafficker Yuen Ye Ming after he was found to have conducted an unauthorised interview with the latter for an article.

An SPS spokesman said Mr Stephen Wright, the writer of the article, spoke to Yuen through a video link last Friday at the Prison Link Centre in Geylang Bahru. He had been registered by Yuen's uncle to accompany the latter on the tele-visit as a family friend. Such visits by non-family members may be allowed if accompanied by registered family members.

"However, Mr Wright had not obtained permission from SPS to speak to Yuen in his capacity as a journalist for the Daily Mail, for the purpose of publicising the content of their conversation," said the spokesman. "SPS does not allow interviews to be conducted with prison inmates without prior approval. Wright had undertaken the tele-visit under false pretences. He will be barred from making any further visits."

The article by Mr Wright, published on the Daily Mail's website last Friday, was headlined "Ex-Westminster public schoolboy caught dealing drugs in Singapore opens up in his first interview since learning he'll be strapped naked to a frame and caned 24 times". It detailed the 29-year-old's life behind bars and his life story, as well as discussed the severity of his sentence, especially with respect to the caning.

London-born Yuen, who was a former disc jockey, was first arrested on Aug 5, 2016 and convicted in court on Jan 17 last year. He was released on court bail, pending his sentencing.

But he was arrested again a little over a month later, on Feb 20, while out on bail for committing similar drug-related offences.

Yuen was sentenced to 20 years in jail and 24 strokes of the cane for drug-related offences, including drug trafficking, drug consumption and drug possession.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who was in Singapore on an official visit from Jan 4 to 5, brought up his case with Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, according to a spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The spokesman added: "Our consular staff have been assisting a British man and his family since his arrest in Singapore in 2016. We strongly oppose the use of corporal punishment, such as caning, in all cases."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 24, 2019, with the headline 'Prison bans UK journalist over secret interview'. Print Edition | Subscribe