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Drug offender wins appeal to have jail term reduced

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon overturned Mohamed Shouffee Adam's sentence to 12 years and six months in prison instead, ruling that the district judge who presided over the trial had erred.

SINGAPORE: A drug offender who was jailed 17 years for importing, possessing and consuming "Ice" has won his appeal to have his sentence reduced.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon overturned Mohamed Shouffee Adam's sentence to 12 years and six months in prison instead, ruling that the district judge who presided over the trial had erred.

Mohamed Shouffee pleaded guilty in August last year to four counts under the Misuse of Drugs Act, with eight other charges being taken into consideration during sentencing.

CJ Menon noted that the district judge was bound by statute to run at least two sentences consecutively and she chose the two heaviest sentences -- 12 years for importing "Ice" and five years for consumption.

The two other sentences are possession of "Ice" (two-year sentence) and possession of not fewer than 30 tablets of nimetazepam (six-month sentence).

Mohamed Shouffee appealed to the High Court against his sentence, arguing that it was manifestly excessive.

In his written judgment, CJ Menon laid down certain principles in relation to a sentencing judge's discretion in choosing which of multiple sentences should be ordered to run consecutively.

The two main principles were the one-transaction rule and the totality principle, he said.

The one-transaction rule states that where two or more offences are committed in the course of a single transaction, all sentences in respect of those offences should be run concurrently rather than consecutively.

CJ Menon said this was a rule that "should be applied flexibly and with common sense", saying that a judge retains the discretion to impose consecutive sentences for distinct offences even if these are related to the same transaction.

Given that the High Court was bound by statute to run two sentences consecutively, one of them had to be the importation charge so as to ensure that the aggregate sentence was longer than the single longest sentence.

But the charge for consumption that the district judge chose resulted in an aggregate sentence that was excessive and crushing in the circumstances, CJ Menon said.

The nimetazepam possession charge was distinct and not part of the same transaction as the importation charge.

Choosing this charge resulted in an aggregate sentence of 12 years and six months' imprisonment which, the High Court found, was just and proportionate in the circumstances.

The High Court also took into account the appellant's past record, which revealed that the longest previous term of imprisonment he had undergone was for 15 months.

He had remained drug and crime free for nine years, which CJ Menon said, indicated that there were reasonable prospects for reform. 

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