Looking Beyond Prospective Guidance - Sentencing Discretion in Capital Drug Framework and Lessons from the US
Peggy Pao-Keerthi Pei Yu
(2014) 26 SAcLJ 520
With effect from 1 January 2013, changes to Singapore’s legislative framework for capital drug offences introduced, inter alia, the court’s discretion not to impose the death penalty if certain prerequisites were fulfilled. However, no prospective guidance was enacted to guide the exercise of the new discretion. This article contends that prospective guidance is not an appropriate means of regulating judicial discretion under the new death penalty framework because such prospective guidance is not possible, desirable or necessary. It draws upon the US experience in the modern era of death penalty regulation. Looking beyond prospective guidance, it proposes an incremental change to enhance fairness and consistency in the sentencing of capital drug offences, namely, that judges’ reasoning where they impose life sentences on persons convicted of capital drug offences should be captured and made accessible, in order to promote the development of rational and holistic sentencing principles.