Woman on drug-related capital charge gets rare discharge

This article is more than 12 months old

In a rare move, a woman facing a capital charge for allegedly importing drugs was freed on Thursday by a district court after having spent 13 months in a maximum security jail.

Ms Ting Swee Ling, 33, was issued with a discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNATA) on the application of the prosecution which had reviewed her case. No reason was given in court.

Ms Ting, a Malaysian, was nabbed on Oct 26 last year at the Woodlands Checkpoint, when she was a pillion rider on a motorcycle on which two packets of a crystalline substance - containing more than 250g of pure methamphetamine or Ice - were found.

She was arrested together with motorcyclist Beh Chew Boo and both were charged with importing the drug, which on conviction carries a potential death penalty for any amount exceeding 250g. Beh is in remand and awaiting trial. He used to be her boyfriend.

Ms Ting's lawyer Peter Fernando made representations last month urging the prosecution to review the evidence and withdraw the case. Lawyers said that although a DNATA technically means she can still be re-arrested if there are new developments, in practice, the release is indefinite.

"I have not come across a case in my experience where an accused person issued with a DNATA is subsequently re-detained," said veteran lawyer Amolat Singh, who added that such a discharge can be made on various grounds.

After being freed in the evening, the first thing Ms Ting did was to head to Mr Fernando's office, with several siblings in tow.

She said: "I cannot thank him enough. My brothers are also here to thank him. They say if not for him, I will not be here now."

Ms Ting recalled that when she was first arrested last year, her mind went blank with disbelief.

She soon adapted to the prison routine, being lodged in a "special watch" cell with three other women aged 26, 27 and 41, all facing capital drug-related charges.

"But last week, I dreamt I was in a temple with my family and I found I had struck 4D numbers," she said.

Ms Ting added that she cried uncontrollably when she appeared in court on Thursday morning and was told by her lawyer Mr Fernando that she would be freed.

"I could not believe it and kept wondering if it was true. Very, very touching to see my family all in court waiting for me."

She shared one important lesson from her prison experience: "When I was outside, my friends were important and I was less close to my family. But in prison, I learnt that my family is more important than friends and I will stay much closer to my family from now on."