I truly wanted to be good at criminal law. I think my interest in criminal law was stoked in boot camp. Boot camp was the first two introductory modules that we would take as freshmen in the SUSS School of Law. It was four full Saturdays where we went through intense introductory and preparatory lessons. It was during boot camp that I was introduced to the case of Beh Chew Boo v Public Prosecutor  SGCA 98. It was here that my interest in criminal law was stoked. The accused, Beh Chew Boo, was caught with 499.97g of methamphetamine. The methamphetamine was hidden in a motorcycle on which he was riding. The motorcycle did not belong to him and he claimed he did not know about the drugs in the motorcycle. In the trial court, Beh was convicted on the capital charge that the prosecution proceeded upon and was sentenced to the mandatory death penalty. However, Beh was acquitted by the Court of Appeal. The basis for the acquittal was that the prosecution had failed to make out its case that Beh knew about the drugs to the required standard of proof, i.e. beyond a reasonable doubt.
The overturning of the conviction of the trial judge’s decision meant that Beh escaped the death penalty. There could not be a bigger change in the outcome of a decision than life or death. The fine line between a man’s life ending and him returning to the life he once lived before he was arrested. The courts have the unenviable task of deciding whether a man like Beh lives or dies. What a good criminal lawyer does in the criminal law system is to ensure that the prosecution has to make out its case to the required standard of proof before the system can send someone to the gallows. This inevitably would result in some possibly guilty individuals walking free but it would also, hopefully, not result in an innocent individual having to suffer the consequences of a conviction.
Criminal Law is taught in two modules over one semester. We learn it in the second half of our second year as law students at SUSS School of Law. There is the substantive portion of criminal law and the other module is the procedural aspect of it. I found the substantive module the toughest of all the modules I have taken in law school. I am always of the belief that we have to be very sure of a conviction. The bar is set very high and rightly so. The defence lawyer is there to test the hypothesis that the prosecution has put forth. This is especially so if we were to convict a person of an offence that holds a capital charge.
So why did I find the module challenging? I do not really know. Perhaps it is the way I am wired. I found other modules relatively palatable when my fellow classmates found them challenging. Perhaps law school is a phase of discovery for me as a future lawyer. To find what I am good at.
Come what may… the results are about to be released in a mere couple of hours.
In the semester ahead I am entering the realm of property and family law. I am hoping I have a better aptitude for these two aspects of the law.