The certificate that will save a drug trafficker’s life – 33B(2)(b) of the MDA

by | Oct 10, 2015 | Criminal Process, DRUGS, Mitigation, Pleading Guilty, Punishment

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The Court of Appeal of Singapore in Muhammad Ridzuan bin Mohd Ali v Attorney-General [2015] SGCA 53 considered the submissions against the decision by the Public Prosecutor not to grant the appellant, Muhammad Ridzuan bin Mohd Ali (“the Appellant”), a certificate of substantive assistance pursuant to s 33B(2)(b) of the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA) .  The certificate, if granted, will give the court the discretion to sentence a person convicted of an offence under s 5(1), being an offence punishable with death under s 33 of the MDA, to life imprisonment and 15 strokes of the cane instead of death if he: (a) proves on a balance of probabilities that his involvement in the trafficking offence was limited to those acts prescribed in s 33B(2)(a); and (b) the PP certifies that he has “substantively assisted” CNB in disrupting drug trafficking activities within or outside Singapore.  

Among other things, the Court stated that:

  1. It is abundantly clear from the Parliamentary debates at the Second Reading of the Bill that an offender’s good faith cooperation with CNB is not a sufficient basis for the PP to grant him a certificate of substantive assistance. The Minister stated that assistance which does not enhance the enforcement effectiveness of CNB will not be enough. 
  2. The object of the substantive assistance provision in the s 33B regime is to enhance the operational capacity of CNB. The information provided should lead to the actual disruption of drug trafficking activities within or outside Singapore.
  3. It is clear from a plain reading of s 33B(4) of the MDA that Parliament intended to limit judicial review of the PP’s decision on whether to issue a certificate of substantive assistance to only the grounds of bad faith and malice; Parliament did not see a need for a more extensive scope of judicial review.