10 June 2006

An Interesting Case

The Straits Times has recently reported a very interesting criminal case. The story has several newsworthy elements which are quite distinct and separate. Depending on which elements the journalist chooses to emphasise, the story can come across sounding very different even though it's based on the same facts.

Let Mr Wang play journalist and demonstrate one possible way the story could have been written:
Karma Times, June 8, 2006
POLICE OFFICER TRICKS MAN WITH SEX AND DRUGS
Lawyers express concerns over police methods


By Mr Wang

A Central Narcotics Bureau officer, whose name cannot be disclosed, spent time lurking in Internet chatrooms, chatting up strangers and making offers to meet up for sex and drugs.

It was a police tactic. On 1 April 2006 this year, he successfully used this method to lure 26-year-old Adrian Yeo to meet up for sex at Bencoolen Street Hotel.

Adrian Yeo was then promptly arrested for possession of a packet of 0.16g of methamphetamine or Ice. He has been sentenced to eight months' imprisonment.

Lawyers have expressed concerns about the entrapment methods employed by the CNB in this case ...


Now Mr Wang will play journalist again and demonstrate a second way to write the story:
Karma Times, June 8, 2006
YOUNG DOCTOR ARRESTED FOR ILLEGAL DRUG POSSESSION
By Mr Wang

A young doctor was jailed for eight months yesterday for possession of a packet of 0.16g of methamphetamine or Ice at the Bencoolen Street hotel room on April 1.

26-year-old Adrian Yeo was a former student at top schools such as The Chinese High School and Hwa Chong Junior College. After completing his national service, he trained to become a doctor at the National University of Singapore.

His bright future came to an abrupt end on 1 April 2006, when he went to Bencoolen Street Hotel to meet an acquaintance he had made over the Internet. They had arranged to meet for sex and the acquaintance had also asked if Adrian had any drugs to share.

When Adrian Yeo arrived at the hotel, he was promptly arrested by undercover officers from the Central Narcotics Bureau ....

Now let's look at the way the Straits Times reported the story:
June 8, 2006
Young doctor jailed eight months for possessing Ice
Downward spiral began when he experimented with gay sex and drugs

By Elena Chong

TAXI driver's son Adrian Yeo See Seng had a bright future as a doctor but the 27-year-old threw it all away when he experimented with sex and drugs.

A district court heard yesterday that he spiralled downwards after he started engaging in homosexual sex with strangers he met over the Internet, and taking drugs.

He was caught when a man he chatted with online invited him for a sex session with a third man at a Bencoolen Street hotel.

But the two strangers turned out to be undercover anti-narcotics officers who found drugs on Yeo when he arrived, and arrested him .....

How the story is written ultimately reflects the journalist's (or his editor's) sense of what is most significant and newsworthy in that story.

When would Version 1 be preferred? Probably if the newspaper saw this as the most newsworthy feature:-

That this case raised serious issues relating to police ethics, and possibly even to constitutional rights. The main focus is that the police had deliberately enticed a citizen to commit a crime and then promptly arrested him for it.

When would Version 2 be preferred? Probably if the newspaper saw this as the most newsworthy feature - the "human interest" angle in that a young promising doctor, a member of a highly respectable profession, had just ruined his own future through his own acts of folly.

When would Version 3 be preferred? Probably if the newspaper saw, as the most newsworthy feature, the fact that a young promising doctor, a member of a highly respectable profession, could have engaged in such terrible evils - drugs AND gay sex.

What is your own reaction to this case? It may already have been tainted by your having read the article as reported in the mainstream media. Pause now, and analyse. What would have been your reaction if the events had happened differently, in any of the following ways?

1. Adrian Yeo was not gay. He had been lured to the hotel by an undercover CNB officer calling herself "Josephine".

2. Adrian Yeo was not a doctor. He was a secondary school dropout working as a Pizza Hut delivery man.

3. Adrian Yeo had never bought illegal drugs in his life. It was the police officer, "Joe", who told him where and how to buy it, and who told him to bring the drugs to the hotel.

4. Adrian Yeo showed up at the hotel without drugs (he has never had anything to do with illegal drugs). He started to have gay sex with the undercover police officer, and was then arrested for an attempted offence under Section 377 of the Penal Code (unnatural sex).

Your responses will reveal your own values, on a range of issues. See below, for example, for a Forum letter where the writer exposes his own biases and prejudices, not at the start of the article, not in the middle, but right at the very end:
June 10, 2006
Entrapment of doctor legal and ethical

I REFER to the article, 'Entrapment' (ST, June 9), and the comments of some lawyers regarding the conviction of Adrian Yeo for possession of a controlled drug (methamphetamine or Ice) at a Bencoolen Street hotel on April 1 this year.

Going by the facts reported a day earlier, I agree fully with District Judge Wong Keen Onn's ruling out placing Yeo on probation. He rightly pointed out that the trainee doctor was a mature adult who was not suffering from any mental disorder.

The judge made this comment to counter Yeo's counsel's objection to the manner in which he was lured and arrested.

I believe that the learned defence counsel's objection was on the grounds that the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) undercover agents had acted as 'agent provocateurs' by luring his client into committing the offence of drug possession.

In case the objection causes confusion in the minds of the man in the street that Yeo had been subjected to a great injustice in a pantomime written and directed by the CNB agents, I wish to differentiate between the use of an agent provocateur and an entrapment (sting operation).

An agent provocateur is one who suggests the commission of a crime to another in the hope that the individual would go along with the suggestion.

On the other hand, an entrapment usually takes place after due investigation of information, such as that an individual is engaged in nefarious activities like trafficking or abusing controlled drugs.

After being satisfied with the authenticity of the information, and if the enforcement officers conclude that a sting operation is needed so as to catch the culprit red-handed with incriminating evidence, it would then be perfectly legal and ethical to resort to entrapment.

This was what happened to Yeo when he turned up for a gay-sex session at the Bencoolen Street hotel.

Undoubtedly, the CNB undercover agents had done their homework well. They found out about the doctor's gay-sex preference that included him consuming drugs to boost his libido.

Hence, there was definitely no breach of the doctor's constitutional rights in the entrapment exercise.

Having said that, it causes me great concern to know that a doctor did not only abuse drugs but also indulged in gay sex with partners he met over the Internet.

Lionel De Souza

Let's take a look at that relevant paragraph again:
it causes me great concern to know that a doctor did not only abuse drugs but also indulged in gay sex with partners he met over the Internet.

Just a little something to ponder -

how would Lionel have felt about this case, if Adrian had indulged in heterosexual sex with partners he met over the Internet?

Or if Adrian had a steady, committed boyfriend?

Or if Adrian was a gay virgin, but the CNB officer named 'Joe' had tried very, very hard to tempt Adrian, and had succeeded in tempting Adrian, into showing up at the hotel for his first gay sexual experience ever?

In any of the above three situations, would Lionel still be so keen to defend the police methods in this case?

It's always fascinating to Mr Wang - to consider our own programmings, conditionings and values. Lionel looks quite clear to Mr Wang - this sentence showed it:
"They found out about the doctor's gay-sex preference that included him consuming drugs to boost his libido."
Methamphetamine or Ice is not Viagra. It doesn't boost your libido. In fact, if Adrian Yeo had showed up at the hotel with Viagra, there wouldn't have been a case for the police to arrest him at all.

++++++++++++++++
".... and then, this cop – well, I didn't know he was a cop
at the time obviously – he started playing this game.
I think it's called ‘I'll show you mine, you show me yours,
and then when you show me yours, I'm gonna nick you!'"
- George Michael, gay victim of police entrapment in 1998.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

great post yet again Mr Wang!

i'm a big fan of your site.:)

Lionel de Souza has just shown how ignorant and bigoted he is by what he wrote to the forum.

ted said...

It is causing me grater concern that the police force is populated with people like Lionel De Souza (yes I know he's retired but it does not preclude the possibility that birds of a feather flock together).

chonghan79 said...

To Mr Wang:

Great post.
I found your blog just about 1 mth ago and it took me about 1 mth+ to finish reading all your blog posts.
I am presently(can't tell the future) a fan of your blog for the alternative views and judicial intricacies that you provide.

Coming back to "An Interesting Case", I realised that this is not my first time reading articles by "Lionel De Souza" in the straits times and the reason why I remember him is for the black and white views that he perceives about the world. Truly scary.

Comments made by lionel are common among people who possess views that they cannot logically or ethically justified and I have long been asking myself why does ST allow such articles to be post in the papers.

In all countries, most newspapers agencies are profit-based organisations and it is only natural that they churn out articles that attract viewership and business. In the case of singapore, journalists are not allowed to write about controversial articles that touch upon race or religions (though that doesn't mean it doesn't happen in a subtle way).

So my question is this, does ST allow articles that put homosexuality in a bad light because of personal bigotry (due to religion, upbringing...etc of individual journalist) or simply because there is little room left for other controversial issues. (I personally feel that the 2 reasons above are strongly intertwined)

In either scenarios, the situation is not a happy one.

Do you have any views to share where things can have a better alternative? (Other than asking for a societal change in mindset, which is neither too likely or easy to happen anytime soon)

Hope to hear your view
From chonghan

p.s I have tried the M-B tests and it seems that different websites give different results. Some say I am a "ENTJ", some others a "INTJ". hhhmmm, it seems that these tests are hard to validate.

Dr Oz bloke said...

Excellent entry Mr Wang!

Anyway doctors are the easiest, safest, punching bags to whack when it comes to the media and journalists in Singapore.

Anything bad about doctors = NEWSWORTHY

And the best thing is doctors usually don't bite back or even bark back. Lawyers on the other hand will shoot a whopping nuclear missile for slander etc etc.

That's just the way it works.

alexk said...

Our police force must be really hard up for work lately.. I was really shocked that they could resort to this kind of entrapment (is it even legal?) and pass it off as law enforcement. Wouldn't it be illegal itself if they had asked Adrian Yeo to bring drugs upon meeting them? If not, meeting up for sex (gay or heterosexual) over the internet, never mind the morality of it, is hardly illegal, isn't it? If they're so inclined on enforcing legal sex, they should also have brought all couples who had oral sex before to justice.

Abetting murder is illegal. Now what about undercover cops enticing a member of the public to abuse drugs?

alexk said...

Btw, Mr Wang, I think you're just jesting when you mention our constitutional rights. Our judicary itself, not to mention the law enforcement agencies, hardly abide by or protect our constitutional rights.

angry doc said...

All I can think of now is how Dr Yeo's unit is going to function with one houseman short...

Anonymous said...

The problem is, 'Who Watches the Watchmen?' Oh i know someone is going to say things like "that's why we screen our people carefully, they are the best, they can't do no wrong etc etc".. so there is no need for checks and balances on the system.

Kris said...

I am of the view that tough measures are needed to clamp down on the use/abuse of drugs. I am also aware that under the Singapore legal system, the use of entrapment is not illegal.

However, I am concerned about the methodology used and would like to suggest taking the middle path and urge for discretionary use of the
entrapment method.

To me, there is a difference between i) hardcore users/traffickers
who openly invite others via various means to join them in drug parties and consumption, and ii) casual users who have no intentions to traffic drugs but got lured into the procurement/distribution of drugs as part of a larger 'deal'.

For the first group, I feel that the use of entrapment can be justified. However, I am not so sure if it is justifiable to use it for the second group. I am not saying that casual drug users are not breaking the law or that they do not deserve punishment. But in Adrian Yeo's case, I read that he originally did not agree to the procurement and supply of drugs. However, the undercover officers persistently messaged/contacted him and lured him with the promise of threesome sex. In the end, he finally gave in to the lure and tempatations of the flesh, and walked straight into the trap.

If Adrian Yeo had indeed said no when the suggestion to bring drugs
and have sex was first brought up by "Joe", the undercover operation
should have ceased then. To me, continuing to lure/harrass him and
throwing in the offer of threesome sex with "Jacob" is going over the
line. Instead, CNB should have targeted the person(s) who supplies
drugs to users like Adrian Yeo, so as to nab the problem at its root/source.

Unfortunately, for Adrian Yeo, it could have been a case of being in
the wrong place at the wrong time, and he ended up being used as a
warning/exemplar to other drug users. I doubt that he would be able
to continue with his medical career about his 8 months imprisonment.
Hopefully, he would be able to get alternative gainful employment and
not have the rest of his life destroyed by one mistake he had made...

greatlover said...

I wish the authorities would consider adopting the position of law-enforcement agencies in other countries which is to "Punish the pusher, Save the user." It is the drug syndicates and pushers that ought to be the target in sting/entrapment operations. The law is the law in Singapore. Thats a given. Courts in the United States and Europe turn a firm but compassionate eye to first time offenders for drug possesion and stress rehabilitation over punishment and incarceration. But this is singapore.....

AA said...

I don't understand why ST had to refer to him as a "taxi driver's son". What does his dad (or dad's occupation rather) have to do with what he did? Would it have made any difference if he was a son of an MNC CEO, a minister, a judge, or a normal salaried worker?

Franky said...

Don't know about taxi driver's sons making the news, but we did have one offspring of former High Court judge Amarjeet Singh and former NMP Kanwaljit Soin who was nabbed in the high profile Singapore drug bust. The newsworthy part is that Dinesh Singh Bhatia got a 30% reduction in jail terms, the same discount rate given to Michael Fay, who was caned for spray painting Amarjeet Singh's car.

loupgarou said...

great take, if one makes a judgement on do no harm principle as well as a cost to society, I dare say that making his parents sell his flat to pay for a bond certainly is going to invite bad karma... anyway, why would his parents want to do that? just one of them declare personal bankruptcy and KEEP the hdb flat would do. unless they have tons of free cash lying around, selling the flat still means hdb/cpf has first charge anyway.. and besides, your HDB flat is immune from your creditors right..??

luvktv said...

thx Mr Wang, for your insightful views..

The Oriental Express said...

Dear Mr. Wang,

I am recommending this great article to http://www,tomorrow.sg

And as this is the first time I am doing, I am not quite sure about the procedure.

Tomorrow has mentioned that I must get permission from the first party. Is it ok for your article to be published in tomorrow?

Thanks. My email: kambobo777@yahoo.com

Gan Chau

pennythots said...

I would like to focus on a different issue that arises in the case - entrapment.

I set out below a few questions to ponder.

1) Is it entrapment (for consumption of drugs), if I (an undercover cop) offer you an ecstacy pill for free, and you eat it?

2) Is it entrapment, if I offer you $1 to eat the pill, and you eat it? (and I assume $1 to you is a nominal amount of money)

3) Is it entrapment, if I offer you $100000 to eat the pill, and you eat it?

4) Is it entrapment, if I offer threesome sex with two hot babes (assuming you are straight) in return for eating the pill, and you eat it?

5) It IS duress/coercion, if I pull out a gun and force you to eat a pill on pain of death.

What I am trying to do here is to set up a spectrum of incentives for a person to commit a crime.

It seems to me, that (1) and (2) above, even if they are examples of entrapment, are not wrongful. There is a strong element of CHOICE left in you. If you choose to commit the crime willingly, then you deserve to do the time.

(3) and (4) are less certain. It seems difficult to resist (3), and (4) is really harder to resist than (3) (for me). Is (3) "wrongful" entrapment? Is there a difference between "wrongful" entrapment and "acceptable" entrapment - i.e. (1) and (2)? To me, entrapment in (3) and (4) is less acceptable than in (1) and (2), because your will to choose was weakened, and thus you are less blameworthy.

With respect to (5), I doubt if anyone will hold the view that you should be punished for the crime, because you had no CHOICE.

A further question is, whether there would be a difference, depending on who does the entrapment? Would a police officer's trap be more acceptable than a private investigator's trap? How about a professional seducer? Is the police expected to have higher standards of fair play, notwithstanding they are doing a their job in ridding crime?

The order and content of the questions is intentional. It seeks to promote my particular viewpoint, that Personal Choice is something to look at, when you decide whether or not to convict a person of a crime. My thesis is that the form of the entrapment itself is not really material. Does it really matter whether it was fair or foul play; whether it was gay sex or straight sex; whether there was investigation or not investigation; suggestion or no suggestion?

What is material, is whether the person is blameworthy - did he choose to commit the crime, or was the incentive so compelling that the entrapment became the only (or the essential) reason why the crime was committed.

Of course, I accept that there are other considerations at play. For example, plainclothes officers shouldn't hand out guns outside banks to invite people to rob the banks. Or trick people into eating drugs by calling it flour. However, isn't the integrity of the police really is a matter for their public relations dept? Should it be a major consideration when deciding whether person X should rot in jail (or not)?

That is why I come back to my thesis, which is, the true question is : is person X blameworthy? If he is a criminal, and he chose to do it, then he really shouldn't be heard to complain about police trickery.

Coming back to the case then, by my thesis entrapment is irrelevant. The officers "found drugs on yeo when he arrived". Yeo was already taking drugs, brought drugs, and was caught.

Hypothetically, assuming that Yeo brought drugs ONLY for the purpose of threesome gay sex (i.e. like (4) above), was threesome gay-sex was such a powerful incentive that it took away his will to resist taking the drugs?

Personally, I think the two are unrelated. Yeo could have had threesome gay sex without taking the drugs. If he wanted to boost his performance by taking drugs, then that's different from the sex being an incentive which sapped his will. He would have exercised his CHOICE to take drugs.

Mr Wang Says So said...

How interesting. Let me offer you another perspective:

The police officer is guilty of abetment of the offence of drug possession:

"107. A person abets the doing of a thing who —

(a) instigates any person to do that thing;

(b) engages with one or more other person or persons in any conspiracy for the doing of that thing, if an act or illegal omission takes place in pursuance of that conspiracy, and in order to the doing of that thing; or

(c) intentionally aids, by any act or illegal omission, the doing of that thing."

Subsection (a) - abetment by instigation" - looks pretty obvious to me.

I had not mentioned this earlier because in one sense, the point is rather moot - we know very well that the Attorney-General's Chambers will not prosecute this kind of case even if legally, the policeman has committed an offence. At the very most (and here I'm probably already over-optimistic), the Public Prosecutor will just tell the Commissioner of Police, "Hey, I got some concerns about this kind of case; in future, can you get your officers to think about X, Y, Z before they do this kind of entrapment again."

But in another sense, we must know intuitively, that if the police force itself is committing offences in order to catch criminals, then something has probably gone wrong somewhere.

Mr Wang Says So said...

And Pennythots -

you missed one crucial point; the news report tries to skip around it too, but you can see the point if you look hard enough;

the officer had ASKED Adrian to bring the drugs.

Anthony said...

Just a point of perspective - things aren't THAT different across the Pacific. Even in the states, entrapment is a very limited defence.

Anonymous said...

"A district court heard yesterday that he spiralled downwards after he started engaging in homosexual sex with strangers he met over the Internet, and taking drugs."

Why entrap an offender when the police can just nab him when he's at home?

Blueheeler - the dog that sniffs out fishy news said...

Entrapment by police officers; legal but not fcuking ethical.

i wonder if the 2 officers who baited the doctor go to sleep ever night peacefully thinking that they have made S'pore a safer place. Isn't it better to have a doctor treat sick patients for 30-40 years than to lock him up and ruin his chances of ever helping another sick person ever again!???

If my income tax form gave me an option, I will check the box that says "please DON'T send ANY of my tax money to the Ministry of Home Affairs"...

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of the Non Sequitur cartoon from a while ago.

Two signs on a post pointing in opposite directions. One is labelled "Morally Right". One is labelled "Legally Right".

Says it all really.

Visual aid: http://www.gocomics.com/nonsequitur/2006/06/09/

et

lee hsien tau said...

Michael Fay's backside is white. Dinesh Singh Bhatia's presumably, well, I can't exactly check, is black.
So why the discount? 30% off is standard for 'good behaviour'. Nothing to do with Amarjeet Singh or his car, I'm afraid.

Ice, I understand, does nothing for the little brother. Keeps a person mentally alert and off food or so I'm told. So how was the doctor conned by the CNB?

John Riemann Soong said...

Your post so hits the nail on the ahead, Mr. Wang. It covered my thoughts exactly, even as an overseas reader.

GR said...

Why would Dinesh Bhatia's backside be "black" - he is not african, dim wit!

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