Friday, June 30, 2006

I love the way that this whole new lenient justice works in Singapore.

THE Michael McCrea case is special, almost as special as the relationship he shared with the man he killed.

First, the Australian government asked the Singapore Government to promise it will not execute McCrea if he is extradited. Then it became apparent that he would not have faced the gallows anyway, since the charges brought against him would not have led to an execution on conviction.

McCrea's lawyer Kelvin Lim dismissed the suggestion that the charges were reduced because of the Government's promise to Australia. He insists that the facts support his argument that McCrea did not commit murder.

'It's quite clear that it is not murder. How can it be murder when there was a sudden and grave provocation from the victims? McCrea was attacked and hit back in self-defence,' he said.

Nor would McCrea have had to face life imprisonment. Under the Penal Code, culpable homicide would attract a jail term of 10 years or life imprisonment if the facts showed that he intended to cause the deaths.

The charges against McCrea were that he did not intend to cause the deaths, although he knew his actions could have fatal results.

In layman's terms, the distinction goes something like this. If B provokes A and A attacks B intending to kill him, it's possibly life imprisonment. If A attacks B in a fit of anger without any intention to kill, even though he knows that B might die, it warrants a maximum of 10 years.

But the reduced charges were cold comfort to McCrea when the sentence was handed down by Justice Choo Han Teck yesterday.

Although he had pleaded guilty, the judge went as far as the law would allow.

Lawyers say that for cases like McCrea's there are no sentencing benchmarks, as each case will be decided by the court on its own unique facts.

McCrea's case was in a sense similar to that of cleaner Aw Teck Hock, who was jailed for nine years for bashing his father Aw Swee Seng to death in 2002.

Aw attacked his father after the 73-year-old man scolded him for coming home late from a drinking session. Aw was so drunk that he did not even realise he had killed the 73-year-old man until the following morning.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong said: 'As in Aw's case, McCrea had reacted with disproportionate and unwarranted violence to words uttered by the deceased.'

But the difference was that when Aw woke up the next day and found his father dead, he rang up the police. McCrea fled the country and tried to cover up the crimes.

The prosecution wanted the court to mete out a sentence that was 'close to the maximum'. It also asked the court to ensure that the total sentence is 'significantly longer' than that of McCrea's former girlfriend Audrey Ong, who helped him dispose of the bodies. She got 12 years.

It got more than it asked for.

Defence pleas for McCrea's term to be backdated to 2002, when he was first detained in Melbourne, cut no ice.

Isn't it fantastic that the Singaporean legal system has gotten to the point where if you kill some dude for calling your girlfriend a slut, you just get manslaughter instead of murder? And if you, having had an entire day to cool down, decide to kill his girlfriend a day later, you still only get manslaughter? I mean, that word "slut" must really hold a whole lot of water for someone to be that angry for that long. You can imagine the defenses coming out now:

"I killed the guy because he laughed at my hair and I was very offended. The baseball bat just happened to be there because I was getting a few practice swings in the park. Oh yeah, I killed his girlfriend too a day later."

Manslaughter. Go figure.

Let's see...Maybe it only works if your name's McCrea and not Tan. I wonder if the name Smith has an "escape the gallows" clause as well.


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