An Open Letter to the President of The Association of Criminal Lawyers
29 March 2017
Dear Mr Sudheesan
I respect the fact that you have many years of experience as a criminal lawyer and, though I do not know you, my friendship with your late uncle, Subhas Anandan, goes back nearly forty years. However I am very disappointed by your statement, “Outrageous to say that Amos Yee was persecuted”, published in the Straits Times on March 28 2017.
You have criticised the decisions of a foreign sovereign country’s judge and its legal system which is not the job of your Association. If you had criticisms you should have addressed them in private to the Law Minister. Instead you have written an emotional outburst which the Straits Times, a Government media mouthpiece, has promptly carried. This is a passive aggressive move. Further as you are aware members of the Law Society are bound by Section 38(1)c of the Legal Profession Act which forbids comment on political cases.
Worse even than that, the case is pending appeal and you should have known better than to comment. Luckily we can be sure that Justice Cole does not read the Straits Times as he is scathing in his judgement about the extent of Government control of our media.
At the same time you remain silent about glaring abuses and areas where our criminal justice system falls well short of the standards expected of a First World country. The whole case of the treatment of Amos Yee was a missed opportunity for our legal associations to ,take a good hard look at where our criminal justice system needs reform. Without habeus corpus, the right to a jury trial or the right to have a lawyer provided if you cannot afford one, we cannot claim to have due process or fair and impartial trials. We cannot claim therefore to be a democracy.
Are your members not ashamed that the move for an Appropriate Adult Scheme came from the Children’s Society and was not driven by legal experts such as yourself? The announcement this week cannot be a coincidence and so, far from being outrageous, the criticisms of Justice Cole are already having a positive outcome on our society.
Here are just a few of the points that I respectfully feel your society should be addressing in concert with the Government rather than wasting time writing letters to state newspapers.
• The length of time your clients have to wait after arrest and in detention before having access to a lawyer
• The abolition of jury trials
• The lack of the right to have a lawyer paid for out of public funds if you cannot afford one (covered by the US Sixth Amendment to the Constitution and familiar to all watchers of American shows such as Law and Order)
• The continuing use of the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act to detain people for extended periods without charging them
• The fact that statements taken without lawyers present do not even have to be verbatim and are not taped or videos
- The fact that the prosecution does not have to disclose evidence to the defence lawyers pre-trial
• The treatment of children in the criminal justice system.
• The unnecessary use of restraints on elderly or juvenile defendants
• The random seizure of property for long-drawn out investigations into non-violent offences
It would be appropriate if you would call out these deficiencies in our system, which is regrettably more Third World than First. Instead you criticise the honourable US judge for highlighting some of these glaring deficiencies in Amos’s prosecution. Ironically your eagerness to leap to the defence of the Government and criticise Amos as a “misguided recalcitrant” reinforces Justice Cole’s conclusion that Amos’s treatment was political and amounted to persecution as does the fact that your letter is printed in the Straits Times with such alacrity while dissenting voices would be unlikely to be published. This also lends support to Justice Cole’s conclusion that Amos could not have had a fair trial. There must have been a better way for your to have dealt with this than merely echo the earlier petulant missive from MHA.