Skip to main content arrow-down arrow-tail-right arrow-triangle-right calendar camera compass download email eye facebook flag mail phone pin play send square-right tag twitter youtube badge message

Malaysian man has death sentence quashed as judgment in Singapore makes judicial history

  • News
  • 23 Oct 2020

On Monday, judicial history was made in Singapore when the death sentence imposed on Malaysian national, Gobi a/l Avedian, for importing class A drugs was overturned.  He is the first person in known history to have had a death sentence overturned on a review by the Singapore Court of Appeal after exhausting all the usual avenue of appeals.

Gobi had initially been acquitted of the capital charge at trial in June 2017 when the trial judge accepted that he did not know at the time that the drug he was importing was heroin. However, the Attorney General’s Chambers appealed, and Gobi was convicted and sentenced to death by the Court of Appeal in October 2018.

Last year, Gobi filed an application to the Court of Appeal to review its previous decision after his clemency application had been denied by the President and his execution became almost certain.

The statutory criteria for review in Singapore in criminal cases is stringent and strictly observed. In addition, the Attorney General fought hard to resist the application, claiming it was an abuse of process and vexatious. But the Court of Appeal’s judgment on 19 October 2020 saw Gobi’s death sentence overturned and a term of 15 years’ imprisonment with 10 strokes of the cane substituted for attempting to import a class C drug, based on the account that he had given at trial.

The Court of Appeal held that Gobi should not be condemned because the prosecution’s case at trial was, in reality, one of ‘wilful blindness’ to the nature of the drugs.  Yet the prosecution had not proved Gobi was ‘wilfully blind’ beyond reasonable doubt. This followed an earlier clarification of the law of ‘wilful blindness’ by the Court of Appeal in 2018. The Court also found that the prosecution had changed its case on appeal to one of actual knowledge, prejudicing Gobi and resulting in his conviction.

In-house counsel Amanda Clift-Matthews commented,

This case has shown that the review process for criminal cases in Singapore can play an important role in preventing miscarriages of justice. The Court of Appeal are to be commended for making the right decision in this case in the interest of justice. Whilst, naturally, finality in criminal proceedings is important, the consequences for Gobi would have been dire. A justice system shows its strength when the court is prepared to concede, if the circumstances demand it, that its previous decision can no longer stand.

Notes to editors

The Death Penalty Project provided support to Singaporean lawyer M.Ravi in the matter before the Court of Appeal.

The full judgment can be viewed here.

Latest news

Efforts towards Abolition: Our recent trip to Ghana
Read More
There is strong evidence Kenyans want abolition of death penalty
Read More
New research examines Kenyan attitudes towards the death penalty
Read More
As Africa rapidly turns away from capital punishment, is it time for Kenya to abolish this relic of a colonial past?
Read More
Challenge to the constitutionality of the mandatory death penalty in Trinidad and Tobago dismissed by UK Privy Council
Read More
Lescene Edwards's murder conviction overturned by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council
Read More
A punishment reserved for the poor and marginalised? New study shines light on the profiles and experiences of death row inmates in Bangladesh
Read More
The Death Penalty Project pays tribute to Professor Nigel Eastman
Read More
Taiwan’s legislators hold the key to abolition as new research reveals the majority favour an end to capital punishment
Read More
The Death Penalty Project pays tribute to Nancy Anderson
Read More
UK’s Privy Council set to hear important challenge to constitutionality of the mandatory death penalty in Trinidad and Tobago
Read More
Indonesians’ support for the death penalty declines with more rigorous survey methods
Read More
The Kalisher Trust Legal Internship - Applications now open
Read More
World Day Against the Death Penalty - Women and the Death Penalty
Read More
People may change mind about death penalty, but government?
Read More
Dismantle the gallows! Sierra Leone becomes the latest country to abolish the death penalty
Read More
Sentenced to death for killing her abusive ex-boyfriend as he attacked her: Aminata's story shows the importance of considering mitigating circumstances
Read More
New research revealing the attitudes of Indonesians towards the death penalty provides new data that could facilitate fresh discourse on the future of capital punishment in the country
Read More
The Death Penalty Project at CogX Festival 2021
Read More

Stay up-to-date with our work