Five volunteers honoured at Judiciary Volunteers Appreciation Dinner

James Masih (left) together with four other outstanding volunteers of the Supreme Court, the State Courts and the Family Justice Courts received awards on Thursday (Sept 14) for their outstanding commitment and dedication to pro-bono work.
James Masih (left) together with four other outstanding volunteers of the Supreme Court, the State Courts and the Family Justice Courts received awards on Thursday (Sept 14) for their outstanding commitment and dedication to pro-bono work.PHOTO: STATE COURTS

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

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

He, together with four other outstanding volunteers of the Supreme Court, the State Courts and the Family Justice Courts received awards on Thursday (Sept 14) 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 some 33 years.

LASCO was put in place 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."

One of the cases involved Saeng-Un Udom from Thailand, who was convicted of killing another Thai national at a work-site.

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

However, at the appeal hearing the next year, the 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 was also indicative of the use of a sharp instrument.

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

His death sentence was overturned and he was jailed 10 years for attempted murder, for attacking the victim.

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

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

A media statement described the five winners as being part of a 350-strong Court volunteer pool who have demonstrated their personal commitment to assisting the Courts in the delivery of justice.