Singapore agrees to UK's request to not cane StanChart robbery suspect

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This is part of efforts to extradite Roach, who allegedly robbed a StanChart outlet

The man suspected of robbing a Standard Chartered Bank branch here in 2016 will not be caned even if he is convicted.

Singapore is willing to give this assurance to pave the extradition of Canadian David James Roach, 28, from Britain, where he was arrested last month.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), which is working with British authorities, said in a statement yesterday: "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."

Singapore has an extradition treaty with Britain, but British laws prohibit the authorities from extraditing Roach without such an assurance. Britain abolished caning as a punishment for criminals in 1948.

"The provision of the assurance is being done to try and ensure that Roach does not escape justice, and does not affect the general position taken by Singapore on corporal punishment," added the MHA.

Roach is accused of robbing StanChart's Holland Village branch of $30,000 on July 7, 2016. He allegedly handed the teller a note with his demands. He then fled to Bangkok with the money but was arrested three days later.

He was sentenced to 14 months' jail in Thailand last June for violating money laundering and customs laws. He carried more than US$20,000 (S$26,000) - believed to be from the robbery - when he entered Thailand .

Media reports said Roach was being deported from Bangkok to Canada and was in transit in London when he was arrested on Jan 11.

His extradition is being sought on one count of robbery under Section 392 of the Penal Code, which can carry a maximum of 10 years' jail and at least six strokes of the cane.

Another count of money laundering is also being sought, under the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act. This carries a maximum sentence of a $500,000 fine or 10 years' imprisonment.

Roach's case was heard in a London court last week. He will contest his extradition.

Cases where such assurance on punishment is given are "exceptional" and undertaken when it is "the only means" to secure an extradition, said National University of Singapore law professor A. Kumaralingam.

For example, Briton Michael McCrea, wanted for a double murder case in 2002, was extradited from Australia in 2005 only after Singapore agreed he would not be hanged. The murder charges were downgraded to culpable homicide.

In a case where caning is mandatory, such as robbery, the punishment can be avoided only if the charge is amended to one that does not require such a sentence, said Prof Kumaralingam.

The Constitution also gives the president the power to remit part of the sentence, said Singapore Management University Assistant Professor of law Eunice Chua.