BAC Law Society: Death Penalty Talk – ‘Regress or Progress’

The BAC Law Society organised its first talk during the MCO period on capital punishment titled ‘Death Penalty: Regress or Progress’. Over 100 participants including students and staff from the BAC Education Group joined the online session held on Sunday, 26th April 2020.

Mr. Nathan Tharmalingam, lecturer and moderator for the session shared recent facts and figures on the death penalty. “According to the statistics by Amnesty International, since our nation gained independence in 1957, 469 executions have taken place,1, 281 inmates are on death row and 78% of those executed were convicted for drug trafficking”, he said.

Guest speaker, Mr. Rajsurian Pillai, a criminal lawyer and BAC alumni elaborated further on the past and present state of the law regarding the death penalty. “During the British Rule, the death sentence was only for murder. Today, there are 33 offences which carries the death penalty; 11 of these offences carry a mandatory death sentence and the rest carry a discretionary death sentence to be exercised by the judge based on the facts and evidence of each case”, said Mr. Rajsurian.

Although of the personal view that capital punishment should be abolished, he pointed out the fact that those found guilty would still need to serve a life imprisonment sentence.

“Out of 53 countries where the death penalty still exists, only 23 countries such as China, Iran, Singapore, USA and Malaysia actively carry out the sentence”, he added.

Mr Rajsurian also discussed some key points in favour and against the abolition of the death penalty. “Those in favour of maintaining the death penalty regard it as a form of retribution (an eye for an eye) and deterrence (the fear of being executed in the future will deter people from committing heinous crimes) whereas those against the death penalty regard it as inhumane and a violation of human rights”.

During the Q&A session, interesting questions were posed to the guest speaker. One participant, Ghazi Hakem was eager to verify the truth of “whether criminal lawyers are not well-paid compared to corporate lawyers”. “Much depends on the expertise of the lawyer, the type of client and where the lawyer is based, for example, criminal practitioners who handle matters on white collar crimes may have clients who are politicians and CEOs who can afford to pay their lawyers well”, replied Mr Rajsurian.

He also shared some personal experiences as a criminal lawyer and stressed that “the presumption of innocence demands that a person is innocent until proven guilty. As a criminal lawyer, you are bound to uphold your client’s best interest in accordance with the law”.

“Criminal law is a vast area of practice. There are many types of cases to handle such as narcotics, sexual offences and even holding a watching brief for the victim’s family,“ he added.

Overall, the session was informative and sparked much interest among BAC students and budding criminal lawyers.

Kudos to the BAC Law Society, Mr Nathan, the BAC Learn team and guest speaker, Mr Rajsurian Pillai for making this event a success!