S'pore Prison Service rebuts claim by death row inmate's sister that filing of court application was blocked

The prison service said its officers did not ask any prisoner awaiting capital punishment for any application form or e-litigation form, or deny any request to file a court application on such basis. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Prison Service (SPS) on Thursday (Aug 4) rebutted claims by the sister of a death row inmate scheduled to be hanged on Friday that its officers had intentionally blocked the submission of a court application.

The sister of Abdul Rahim Shapiee claimed that a group of prisoners on death row, including her brother, had given court documents to prison officers on July 25.

In a letter that was posted online, she claimed that the prison authorities "placed impossible obstacles" to prevent their suit from being filed by asking the prisoners for application forms and e-litigation forms.

This is untrue, said the SPS in its statement on Thursday.

"No prisoner awaiting capital punishment approached any SPS officer on July 25, 2022, to request to file any legal application," said the statement.

The SPS said that on July 28, two death row prisoners made a request to a prison officer for advice on the process of filing a civil claim, which is known as an originating claim.

"Since the advice related to legal proceedings to be filed in court, the SPS officer told them that they should seek advice from the court on the specific documents required for the filing of an application of that nature, as well as the fees involved.

"This is the standard procedure for prisoners who are not assisted by legal counsel for the filing of non-routine applications."

On the same day, said the SPS, one of the two inmates was issued a form so he could write to the court to pose his queries when he requested it.

The form was not used, said the SPS statement.

"Contrary to the claims made, SPS officers did not ask any prisoner awaiting capital punishment for any application form or e-litigation form, or deny any request to file a court application on such basis," it said.

The two prisoners did not inform SPS that their intended claim involved Abdul Rahim, or that the application required urgent attention, added the statement.

In fact, one of the two prisoners informed a prison officer that the documents were not finalised as he was awaiting an upcoming visit on Aug 1 to receive a printout of another document.

On Aug 1, the prisoner representing the inmates in their civil claim submitted the final set of documents to SPS.

On the same day, SPS filed the set of documents with the court, on behalf of the death row prisoners.

SPS said it also made arrangements with the family of the representative prisoner for the payment required.

A prison officer was present at the Supreme Court to assist with the filing of the application, which was successfully filed the same afternoon, said the statement.

The SPS statement did not name the representative.

However, court records show that former police officer Iskandar Rahmat, who was convicted of the 2013 Kovan double murder, filed a civil claim for 24 death row inmates, including himself.

The 24 inmates claim that as a result of costs orders being imposed on lawyers, they have been "prevented and/or obstructed from appointing lawyers to review and/or challenge their conviction and/or sentence and/or make other legal challenges".

Under criminal justice procedure, the court can order lawyers to personally bear the legal costs if they are found to have abused the court's process or if the proceedings are frivolous or vexatious.

The suit was struck out by the High Court on Wednesday. The appeal is scheduled to be heard on Thursday afternoon.

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