This Week In Court

– week of 27th Feb –

Judicial caning is an extremely brutal and dehumanising practice which, in Singapore, is imposed mandatorily on a wide range of offences, many of them non-violent.

It was plain to see in court this week that our systems produce desperation, then punish people for acting out of that desperation. Not only are they punished, they also are often helpless in the hands of an imposing legal system.

Whether it is being denied medication, being subject to fines you cannot afford, or being told off by a judge for your posture, every encounter is disempowering, and delivers pain.

Case 1:

A woman in remand appeared in court via video link and informed the judge that the prison authorities refused to let her have the IMH medication that she has been taking for years. It was not revealed in court what mental health condition she had. The judge replied that he was “not in a position” to say whether she should take the medication or not and if she was unwell, she should see the doctor. No bail was offered to her.

Case 2:

A migrant worker from China was charged for overstaying his visa by 6 months. We heard that his employer terminated his contract and work pass earlier than it was originally due to end. In mitigation, the worker said that he was remorseful and merely wanted to continue employment in Singapore as he was the sole breadwinner of his family and needed to pay his son’s university fees.

In the end, he was sentenced to 38 days imprisonment and 3 strokes of the cane.

Judicial caning is mandatory for overstaying (of visa) offences, regardless of the reasons.

Case 3:

A woman from India was sentenced to pay a fine of $5,000 under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act. The Judge said that as she is a foreigner, she cannot be given an instalment plan to pay the fine. The woman requested more time to pay the fine as her pay day is 27th march.

Lastly, while not pertaining to a specific case, we felt this interaction we witnessed in court was important to share:

A judge scolded a man who was the bailor of an accused person for “slouching” and “leaning forward” while sitting at the court’s public gallery. The man had been sitting there waiting for his accused friend’s turn to appear before the judge for almost 2 hours. The judge also said “this is not a cinema

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