MHA conducting survey on death penalty to understand public sentiment

MHA conducting survey on death penalty to understand public sentiment

changi prison entrance gate
The entrance gate of Changi Prison. (File photo: Singapore Prison Service)

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is conducting a national survey to understand public sentiment on the death penalty in Singapore. 

The survey, which will be done between October and December, involves 2,000 Singaporeans and permanent residents who were randomly selected. 

They were informed of their participation in letters seen by Channel NewsAsia. 

The letter said that an interviewer from Blackbox Research, which has been commissioned to carry out the survey, may visit the participants' house, and he or she will be identifiable by the company's identity pass and MHA's authorisation letter.

Participants were told that the survey will take about 15 minutes.

"Please be assured that the survey is non-identifiable and your responses will be kept anonymous," the letter said. 

In response to Channel NewsAsia's queries, an MHA spokesperson said that the survey is being conducted to get "a better understanding of Singapore residents’ attitudes towards the death penalty", and is part of the Government’s regular research on Singapore's criminal justice system.

Participants were randomly selected based on age, race and gender, for a representative sample of the Singapore resident population, MHA added.

Each respondent will receive a S$5 NTUC FairPrice voucher upon completing the survey, as stated in the letter to participants.

A survey in 2016 by government feedback unit REACH had found that support for the death penalty was high. Eight in 10 respondents said that the death penalty should be retained, with 82 per cent agreeing that it was an important deterrent that helped keep Singapore safe from serious crimes.

Only one in 10 said it should be abolished.

According to data from the Singapore Prison Service, there were eight executions last year, all of them for drug offences.

In 2016, there were four executions - two for drug offences and two for murder. 

Parliament had in 2012 passed laws to remove the mandatory death penalty in certain cases of drug trafficking and in murder cases where there was no intention to kill. 

In the case of drug trafficking, the discretion of the courts with regard to the death penalty applies if two specific conditions are met:

First, if the accused acted only as a courier and was not involved in any other activity related to the supply or distribution of drugs; and second if the accused has cooperated with the Central Narcotics Bureau in a substantive way, or has a mental disability which substantially impairs his appreciation of the gravity of the act.

Source: CNA/gs(ra)