British author says S’pore book ‘fair criticism’ of court


A British author on trial for contempt of court for alleged attacks against the Singapore judiciary on
Tuesday defended his book on the death penalty as “fair criticism” of the courts.

Speaking through his lawyer, Alan Shadrake took issue with the claim from the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) that his book, “Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock“, attacked the judicial system.

“The passages neither scandalise the court, nor do they depart from the principle of fair criticism endorsed by the Singapore court,” lawyer M. Ravi said in a written submission to the High Court.

“The submissions made in the book are well-evidenced and well-sourced, not the tittle-tattle or unscrupulous scaremongering which is the target of the contempt jurisdiction.”

But the AGC said that “Mr Shadrake’s baseless and unwarranted attacks on the integrity, impartiality and independence of the Singapore judiciary cannot possibly come within any reasonable notion of fair criticism.”

Ravi said Shadrake would write to his publisher to remove one inaccuracy in the book, having conceded that a jail sentence imposed on the son of a judge for drug consumption had not been light because of the man’s connections.

But Shadrake, 75, told reporters: “I stand by the book in general… This is just a minor correction, that’s all. I’m not apologising.”

The book contains a profile of Darshan Singh, the former chief executioner at Singapore’s Changi Prison who, according to the author, executed around 1,000 men and women from 1959 until he retired in 2006.

It also features interviews with human rights activists, lawyers and former police officers on cases involving capital punishment.

Shadrake, who is based in Malaysia, was arrested in Singapore when he travelled there to launch the book in July. He has been freed on bail but his passport has been seized.

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