Criminal Lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam defends people who might face the death penalty in Singapore
Our Singapore Criminal Lawyer, Eugene Thuraisingam was featured in The Straits Times for his work in defending accused people who might face the death penalty in Singapore on a pro bono basis under the Legal Assistance Scheme for Capital Offences (LASCO).
Eugene told The Straits Times that his former boss, Senior Counsel R. Palakrishnan, was one of his sources of inspiration.
In describing some of his clients, some of whom were drug couriers or drug traffickers:
Most of them are nice, young, naive and unfortunately, because they are the poorest of the poor, they don’t have the skills set or opportunity to earn money.
And so, they fall prey to these quick ways to make a few dollars.
You can’t help but sympathise with the predicament they’re in. There is nobody else to help them; if you don’t help, who else can they turn to?
3. Eugene’s memorable capital case
One of his first few criminal cases in the Court of Appeal involved a Malaysian, Dinesh Pillai. In 2009, Dinesh was instructed to bring in “a packet of food”, wrapped in brown paper and bagged with packets of chilli and gravy, from across the Causeway to Singapore. This was in exchange for RM200. The packet food was found to contain 19.35 grams of heroin. Dinesh was convicted and was sentenced to the mandatory death penalty.
Eugene was assigned to Dinesh’s matter. The first few appeals were unsuccessful.
The Misuse of Drugs was amended soon after. The amendments include the new regime under section 27(1) and amended the MDA to include the present section 33B. This means that if the offender showed that he was a mere courier and either cooperated with the authorities or suffered from a mental disorder, he could escape the mandatory death penalty and be sentenced to life imprisonment.
After undergoing a psychiatric assessment, it was found that Dinesh was likely to be suffering from depression. He escaped the mandatory death penalty.
While Eugene has defended and saved many from facing the death penalty, he recounted that it was devastating when he lost one appeal.
Eugene told The Straits Times:
You feel sad because a life was lost, but I know I did everything possible.
You don’t get too emotional after a while and you learn that all you can do is to do your best.