Singapore — Netizens were up in arms after finding out that the man who robbed a Standard Chartered bank would purportedly escape his caning sentence.
The Canadian man, David James Roach, was sentenced to five years’ jail and six strokes of the cane in Singapore court on Wednesday (Jul 7).
Because Roach was in Britain last year, Singapore had to reassure the British government that Roach would not be caned if he were to be convicted of robbery, which is an offence that comes with mandatory caning here.
British laws prohibit the authorities from extraditing someone without such an undertaking. Britain abolished caning for criminals in 1948.
Roach robbed the Standard Chartered branch in Holland Village of S$30,450 on Jul 7, 2016. He gave a note to a pregnant bank teller and placed his hand in a black sling bag on the counter, pretending it was a gun.
The note he gave her read: “This is a robbery. I have a gun in my bag.”
The woman read the note and looked at Roach. She then gave him cash of S$30,450 in an envelope, but also pressed the panic button to call for help.
After Roach left, the victim stood up and shouted that Roach was a robber. Two of her colleagues gave chase but could not catch up with him.
After absconding to Thailand, Roach was arrested later in July 2016 and sentenced to 14 months’ jail in Thailand for violating money laundering and other Thai Customs laws.
After he was deported from Thailand on Jan 11, 2018, Roach was detained in London, at Singapore’s request, while en route to Canada.
The Thai government had earlier rejected Singapore’s request to extradite Roach as the two countries did not have an extradition treaty in place. He was extradited to Singapore from Britain in March last year.
Roach had also appealed multiple times to the British High Court to reverse the decision to extradite him to Singapore.
“The Singapore Government is working with UK authorities on the extradition of David James Roach to Singapore,” said MHA in 2018. “As part of the extradition proceedings, the UK government has requested an assurance that if Roach were to be found guilty by a Singapore Court of robbery, the sentence of corporal punishment will not be carried out.”
“The Singapore Government has agreed to the UK authorities’ request,” said MHA. It added that UK extradition laws prohibit the UK from extraditing Roach to Singapore in the absence of such an assurance.
The assurance is to “try and ensure that Roach does not escape justice”, said MHA back in 2018, adding that this “does not affect the general position taken by Singapore on corporal punishment”.
While it is unclear whether his caning sentence will be carried out, netizens were not happy about the possibility that Roach would be able to get away with only a jail term.
Others also said that they missed the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew who in 1994 went ahead with corporal punishment involving an American citizen.
(Michael Peter Fay is an American who was sentenced to six strokes of the cane in Singapore in 1994 for theft and vandalising 18 cars over a ten-day period in Sept 1993, which caused a temporary strain in relations between Singapore and the United States. Although caning is a routine court sentence in Singapore, Fay’s case garnered some controversy and was widely covered in the media in the United States, as it was believed to be the first judicial corporal punishment involving an American citizen.)
For robbery, Roach could have been sentenced to between two and 10 years’ jail and at least six strokes of the cane.
For taking his criminal proceeds out of the country, he could have been jailed up to 10 years, fined up to S$500,000, or both. /TISG
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