On 27 May 2011, the Court of Appeal of Singapore upheld the High Court’s decision to convict Mr. Alan Shadrake of contempt of court for the allegations he made in his book about the application of the death penalty in Singapore, “Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore in the Dock”.
The Court of Appeal also upheld Mr. Shadrake’s sentence of six weeks’ imprisonment and a fine of S$20,000 (in default of which Mr. Shadrake is to serve a further two weeks in prison.
On 3 November 2010, Mr. Shadrake, 75, was found guilty of scandalising the Singapore judiciary in eleven of fourteen passages from his book, “Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore in the Dock”. The book reports that Singapore courts dispense unequal justice and succumb to political and economic pressure and are biased against the poor or less educated. The book also includes interviews with the former chief executioner at Singapore’s Changi Prison, Darshan Singh who he reports has executed about 1,000 between 1959 to 2006.
We, together with Edward Fitzgerald QC and Ben Silverstone from Doughty Street Chambers assisted Mr Shadrake’s legal team in Singapore throughout his proceedings at trial and appeal.
We are extremely disappointed with the outcome of the appeal, in particular, the decision to uphold the imposition of a custodial sentence on Mr. Shadrake for the contempt of scandalising the court. In any developed country, legitimate criticism of judicial conduct should be protected by the fundamental right to free expression which in turn strengthens public confidence.