Monday, 9 March 2015

Same standards for everyone, says AGC of caning

By Janice Heng, The Sunday Times, 8 Mar 2015

The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) has responded to criticism over the caning sentence meted out to the two German men who vandalised a train after sneaking into the SMRT Bishan depot.

Stressing that Singapore's laws against vandalism are well known, an AGC spokesman said the same standards are applied to everyone.

The spokesman also highlighted the seriousness of the crimes, adding: "They came to a foreign country, repeatedly trespassed into security sensitive areas and deliberately flouted our laws."

Last Thursday, Andreas Von Knorre, 22, and Elton Hinz, 21, were sentenced to nine months in jail and three strokes of the cane after pleading guilty.

Three times in November, the duo sneaked into the depot through a drain.

On their last intrusion on Nov 8, they posed for a picture and spray-painted the left side of a train carriage with graffiti measuring 10m by 1.8m.

SMRT had to spend $6,500 on cleaning the train and another $7,150 to supervise the operation. The affected train was taken off service for nine days, affecting more than 200,000 commuter trips.

The sentencing was carried by news sites around the world, with German broadcaster Deutsche Welle even putting up an article describing how caning takes place and the physical and mental scars it leaves.

A spokesman for the German embassy here said its government "is opposed to corporal punishment anywhere in the world, including in Singapore".

International organisation Human Rights Watch (HRW) described caning as a form of torture, adding that Singapore's decision to use it as a punishment is "indicative of a blatant disregard for international human rights standards".

But the AGC, in its response to the embassy spokesman and HRW, rejected this. "Caning is not torture," its spokesman said. "It is carried out in Singapore under strict standards, monitored at all times by a doctor.

"The accused persons in this case were vandals who broke the law for their own self-aggrandisement, without consideration of the social costs and the disruptions that their acts would cause to others...

"In taking action against them, we are holding them to the same standards as all others, a fundamental principle of justice which we have always abided by."

Most netizens who posted comments on news sites, such as those in Britain and Australia, praised Singapore for its strong stance against vandalism, with several urging their own governments to do the same.

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