Monday, June 12, 2006

Rules of Entrapment

A young doctor was jailed a few days ago (The Straits Times, June 8) for possession of drugs. The short story of how it happened is that undercover officers from the Central Narcotics Bureau had chatted him up on the Internet, and knowing his homosexual preferences, asked him if he had wanted some three-way “fun” and also if he had drugs.

According to a follow-up report (ST, June 9), the doctor said no a few times but the officers persisted and, after a while, the doctor gave in. He met them in a hotel, was found with the drugs, and was arrested.

While lawyers interviewed by the ST agreed there was a place for entrapment in law enforcement, they also opined that in this case, the CNB officers had “crossed the line”.

On June 10 an ST Forum writer, Mr Lionel De Souza, attempted to clarify matters and to defend the CNB. His argument? That there was a difference between the use of an agent provocateur and the use of entrapment or a sting operation, and that the latter was all right.

An agent provocateur, he said, was “one who suggests the commission of a crime to another in the hope that the individual would go along with the suggestion” while “entrapment usually takes place after due investigation of information, such as that an individual is engaged in nefarious activities like trafficking or abusing controlled drugs.”

In his letter, he continued: “After being satisfied with the authenticity of the information, and if the enforcement officers conclude that a sting operation is needed so as to catch the culprit red handed with incriminating evidence, it would then be perfectly legal and ethical to resort to entrapment.”

I have two issues with this argument.

Firstly, the suggestion that the CNB’s officers were not agent provocateurs can be challenged. Did they not repeatedly suggest “having some gay fun” when in fact gay sex is illegal in Singapore? Did the doctor offer to bring drugs, or did they ask – or even pester – him to?

Secondly, even if that challenge fails, Mr De Souza misses the point which causes concern, which is that in Singapore law, the method of entrapment does not matter.

According to the June 9 report: “Unlike countries such as the United States and Canada, where evidence gathered through "excessive'' entrapment can be thrown out of court, evidence obtained through any method of entrapment is lawful in Singapore.”

So the distinction Mr De Souza makes may be an an unwritten understanding in legal circles or one which the police use as an internal guideline; but it is not recognized or enshrined in law.

There are no official rules for entrapment and people are not protected legally from excesses. And that is the problem that’s cause for concern.


At 5:38 pm GMT+8, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the doctor is in the process of rehabilitating himself and trying to distance himself from his past, he is probably also at his weakest and in a confused state of mind. Wouldnt such entrapmant at this particular point in time tantamount to preying on his weakness and a bad influence on him ?.What if the entrapment caused the doctor to resume his nefarious activities? How then can the doctor defend himself if his weakness is preyed upon and he is enticed to commit an offence which may not have taken place otherwise?

If entrapment can be justified where does it stop?

At 4:31 pm GMT+8, Blogger Robin said...

Entrapment tempts the devil out of a person and sometimes does make a person pass his imaginery line of confidence that he will not get caught or such thing will never happen to him.

Temptation is evil and tempting someone to commit a crime is definitely not ethical, nor less evil.

So is entrapment for all crime ethical, even with the temptation is illegal in the first place?

People are tempted to take Risk because of the carrots? Shouldn't the tempter be charged for abbeting someone to commit a crime?

hate to ask.. but where is the imaginery line again.

I like your challenge on this case. Hope they use this in their appeal.



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