Court of Appeal dismisses application by drug trafficker on death row, reminds counsels not to invoke review process lightly
SINGAPORE: The Court of Appeal on Friday (Oct 16) dismissed an application by a drug trafficker on death row for a review of his case, reminding defence counsels not to invoke the review process lightly and without reasonable basis or they will face sanctions for abusing court processes.
Syed Suhail Syed Zin, 44, was convicted in 2015 of a capital charge of possessing heroin for trafficking and was set to hang on Sep 18 this year. His execution was stayed at the last minute after defence lawyer M Ravi stepped in.
He sought a review of the court's 2018 decision to uphold Syed's conviction and sentence on two grounds, but the Court of Appeal on Friday dismissed this application for a review.
Delivering the decision, Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang Boon Leong said Syed, through his lawyer, had failed to provide sufficient material and the judges were not persuaded that there had been any miscarriage of justice in the criminal proceedings.
Justice Phang also stressed that the review process is not to be invoked lightly and that defence counsels are bound not to advance grounds that are without reasonable basis.
If they do, they face the prospect of being sanctioned for abusing the process of court.
Mr Ravi alleged during a previous hearing last month that his client had been prejudiced because letters Syed wrote to his lawyer had been forwarded by the prison service to the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC).
He had asked for the entire AGC team to be disqualified from the case.
READ: Court of Appeal orders further arguments in case of drug trafficker on death row, execution on hold
Responding to this, Justice Phang said Mr Ravi had made representations on this issue without filing any evidence.
"We take this opportunity to reiterate that this is not the appropriate way to raise such issues before the court," he said. "There was an emotive quality to the submissions that were being advanced, but a court is bound to deal with such matters only on established legal principles."
He said the court obtained confirmation from Deputy Chief Prosecutor Francis Ng, who led the case in the previous hearing for the prosecution, that he had not read the letters.
Justice Phang said he was satisfied that Mr Ravi failed to show the court any basis to justify his claim that the "entirety of the AGC was disqualified from appearing in this matter", or that there was any prejudice from the disclosure of the letters.
The court found no basis to disqualify Mr Ng and his team.
In closing, Justice Phang said: "We have highlighted the stringent requirements that must be satisfied in an application for review and will not hesitate to summarily dismiss patently unmeritorious applications in the future – even at the leave stage."
Mr Ravi said in a Facebook post after the hearing that he has received letters from eight other inmates on death row whose petitions for clemency have been dismissed.
"If I take these eight cases, this would mean that I am representing all 21 who (are) facing imminent execution," said Mr Ravi, adding that he "will not say no" to the eight.