The Court of Appeal in Singapore has rejected a bid by a British DJ to raise legal questions related to his sentence of 20 years’ jail and 24 strokes of the cane for two sets of drug offences committed in 2016 and 2018.
Yuen Ye Ming, a London-born, Singapore-based drum, and bass DJ was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment and 24 strokes of the cane on two sets of charges of trafficking, possession, and consumption.
It was the second time the 31-year-old has failed in his attempt to raise legal questions of public interest to Singapore’s highest court. His appeal consisted of three issues, including whether two separate caning sentences can be ordered to be imposed concurrently, instead of cumulatively.
In dismissing Yuen’s case, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon said the legal requirements for the court to allow his application had not been met.
During the hearing on Wednesday, the judge told his lawyer, M. Ravi, that the apex court has no jurisdiction to determine the legal questions as they had not been decided by the High Court.
“Our powers are constrained by statute,” said Chief Justice Menon. M. Ravi who wasn’t pleased with the judgement issued a statement to VICE News, saying:
“Singapore prides itself on the notion that it’s a nation that is so strict, with zero-tolerance for drugs, and therefore it has functioned well. Singapore is in the league of Iraq, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, and China, as leading proponents of the death penalty. That is quite bizarre for the world to watch – it’s as though Singapore has sought a leadership position that they don’t want to lose.”
Yuen was first arrested on Aug 5, 2016, at a River Valley condominium and found to be carrying drugs. Investigations later revealed that he was selling drugs to fund his lavish lifestyle and repay his gambling debts.
At the time of his arrest, he was originally facing the death penalty, but the capital charge was dropped because the net weight of cannabis he was carrying was below the death penalty limit of 500 grams (17.64 ounces) under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
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On Jan 17, 2018, he pleaded guilty to trafficking, possession, and consumption charges, and the case was adjourned for sentencing. While out on bail, Yuen was arrested on Feb 20, 2018, and charged with a second set of trafficking, possession, and consumption offences.
He pleaded guilty to four of the 12 charges on July 18, 2018. On Aug 1, 2018, he was sentenced to a total of 20 years imprisonment and the maximum 24 strokes of the cane by a district judge. He later appealed to the High Court against the sentence but his appeal was dismissed in November 2018.
In 2015, Singapore’s Court of Appeal rejected a challenge that caning is discriminatory and a form of torture. This was also led by M Ravi on behalf of Malaysian drug trafficker Yong Vui Kong, whose original death sentence was reduced to life imprisonment with 15 strokes of the cane.
The United Nations Convention against Torture, of which Singapore is not a signatory, defines torture as:
“any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person”.
“The state has a right to discipline, but the state does not have the right to cause physical injury,” affirms M Ravi. “Caning is racist in origin, it is discriminatory, and it has no rational nexus to the objective of the legislation which is to control and discipline.”