Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A different world

I had a thought-provoking conversation yesterday with a Singaporean criminal prosecutor. He was about the same age as me (late thirties), and very senior: judges and lawyers often seem extraordinarily young in Singapore. According to one of his colleagues, meritocratic principles apply whereby someone who is fresh out of law school and in their mid-twenties is not deemed to be any less capable of presiding over a court than someone in their fifties. This is an interesting reversal of the equation of age with wisdom.

In Singapore the death penalty applies for murder and drug smuggling as well as other crimes, so I asked him how he felt about the fact that the outcome of a successful prosecution would be the death of the accused. He said that his first time was the hardest, but that he had dealt with some horrendous crimes and had no doubt that where someone was convicted of such a crime, they deserved to die.

As part of a presentation he was giving, he had a collection of photos of forensic evidence from the murder of a child and it was all I could do to stop him showing them all to me: "I've seen enough", I said politely. It was something he had become so familiar with he didn't even realise how terrible the photographs were. He did his job well in that case: the accused in that case was convicted and was hanged.

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