Two convicted drug traffickers escape gallows, imprisoned for life

SINGAPORE — Two convicted drug traffickers were spared the gallows today (April 20), four years after being sentenced to death.

Cheong Chun Yin, 31, and Pang Siew Fum, 60, both Malaysians, were sentenced to life imprisonment for trafficking 2.7kg of heroin to Singapore on June 16, 2008. They were convicted in 2010.

Cheong was also given 15 strokes of the cane — the minimum prescribed by the Misuse of Drugs Act.

High Court judge Choo Han Teck said he was satisfied that Cheong’s involvement in the act was that of a courier. Justice Choo also noted that the prosecution had tendered documents certifying Cheong had “substantively assisted” the Central Narcotics Bureau in disrupting drug trafficking activities outside Singapore.

The Misuse of Drugs Act was amended together with the Penal Code in 2012 to remove the mandatory death penalty for certain types of homicide and drug trafficking offences, in a move to “temper justice with mercy”.

Apart from meeting the condition of having only played the role of a courier, a drug trafficker must either have cooperated with the Central Narcotics Bureau in a substantive way or have a mental disability that substantially impairs his appreciation of the gravity of the act.

Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Cheong’s 59-year-old father Mr Cheong Kah Pin said he is relieved that Cheong was spared and is “at peace”.

“But I hope the Singapore government can give him a chance and let him come back earlier,” he repeatedly said in Mandarin.

The elder Mr Cheong said he had sold his house and other assets to pay for Cheong’s legal fees. Since Cheong’s remand in June 2008, Mr Cheong had made weekly trips to from Johor Bahru to Changi prison to visit his son.

In Pang’s case, Justice Choo was persuaded that she was suffering from mental abnormalities during the time of the offence. Her lawyers Mr Irving Choh and Ms Lim Bee Li had submitted a medical opinion that Pang was suffering from a major depressive disorder around the time of the offence, which had “substantially impaired her mental responsibility” for her act.

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