Straits Times report about the case referred to in the SADPC and Second Chances statements,
Apr 16, 2011
Court allows drug trafficker’s appeal
Evidence showed he did not know he had heroin
By K.C. Vijayan, Law Correspondent
A DRUG trafficker was spared the gallows yesterday after the evidence showed he did not know heroin was among the drugs he carried.
The Court of Appeal, in allowing Khor Soon Lee’s appeal, made it clear that this was an unusual case, based on the circumstances, and it did not set a precedent.
The 36-year-old Malaysian was found guilty and sentenced to death in December 2009 by the High Court for importing 27.86g of heroin.
He was nabbed at Woodlands Immigration Checkpoint on Aug 9, 2008, after he was found with four bundles of drugs, one of which contained heroin.
Under the law, he was presumed to know what drugs he was carrying and he failed to rebut the presumption at the High Court trial.
On appeal, his case turned on two issues: that he did not know the drug was heroin, and his then co-accused was not available to testify at Khor’s trial.
Khor argued through lawyers Rupert Seah Eng Chee and Joseph Tan Chin Aik that he knew he was carrying other drugs – Erimin, Ketamine, Ice and Ecstasy – but did not know he was carrying heroin.
When the four bundles were unwrapped before him on the day he was nabbed, he identified to the officers three which contained Erimin, Ketamine and Ecstasy and said the fourth bundle had Ice when, in fact, it contained heroin.
He explained it was his sixth job as a runner for a supplier named Tony, also known as Ong Heng Hor, a Malaysian, who had assured him that no heroin would be involved in the deliveries.
The Court, comprising Judges of Appeal Chao Hick Tin, Andrew Phang and V. K. Rajah, noted that prosecutors did not challenge this aspect of Khor’s evidence in the initial trial.
It found there was a consistent pattern to Khor’s conduct and he had taken precautions not to deal in drugs like heroin because it carried the death penalty.
He trusted Tony based on their close personal relationship. Hence, it was understandable why he was complacent in not checking the contents and had no reason to strongly suspect there was heroin.
Justice Andrew Phang said the unusual facts of the case were compounded by the absence of a key witness – Tony. He was arrested near the Kranji MRT station some five hours after Khor.
But he was later given a discharge not amounting to an acquittal and repatriated to Malaysia, due to insufficient evidence. When asked to return, he refused and his whereabouts are now unknown.
The court assumed Tony’s testimony, if given, would have supported Khor’s case and that it was unfortunate Tony was released before Khor’s trial began.
It directed that, in future, where two co-accused are charged in relation to the same offence, prosecutors should inform defence lawyers as soon as possible if they wanted to release one of them.
Likewise, defence lawyers should also act with equal speed in deciding if they require the evidence of the to-be-released co-accused for their client’s defence. Counsel could then apply for this person to attend the trial.
Prosecutors were given 21 days to come up with the courses of action open to the court to deal with Khor, and a further 21 days were allotted to defence lawyers to respond.
Khor will be held in custody till then.
The court stressed that Khor’s appeal was allowed based on a ‘finely balanced set of facts’ and nothing in the case sets a precedent for future cases which will be decided on their particular facts. – ST
Jacob 69er: See also my post here about Yong Vui Kong who faces execution at any time.