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British ex-public schoolboy is sentenced to 24 strokes of the cane for drugs offences in Singapore



British ex-public schoolboy, 29, is at the centre of diplomatic row after Singapore sentences him to 'barbaric' 24 strokes of the cane on his bare buttocks over drugs offences

  • Ye Ming Yuen, 29, will be stripped naked and strapped to a large wooden trestle
  • The 29-year-old buttocks will be flogged 24 times with a 4ft-long rattan cane  
  • London-born Yuen went to £37,000-a-year Westminster School in the capital
  • Has also been ordered to serve 20 years in jail after drug offences conviction

By Stephen Wright for the Daily Mail

Published: 17:23 EST, 11 January 2019 | Updated: 19:15 EST, 11 January 2019

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A British ex-public schoolboy is at the centre of a major diplomatic row after being sentenced to 24 strokes of the cane for drugs offences in Singapore.

The case has sparked a rift between Singapore and the UK, which traditionally have close ties.

It has also prompted the intervention of Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and his officials, who made clear they ‘strongly oppose the use of corporal punishment’.

London-born Ye Ming Yuen, 29, has also been ordered to serve 20 years in jail after being convicted of seven drug offences, including trafficking
London-born Ye Ming Yuen, 29, has also been ordered to serve 20 years in jail after being convicted of seven drug offences, including trafficking

London-born Ye Ming Yuen, 29, has also been ordered to serve 20 years in jail after being convicted of seven drug offences, including trafficking

London-born Ye Ming Yuen, 29, who went to £37,000-a-year Westminster School, will be stripped naked and strapped to a large wooden trestle.

Then his buttocks will be flogged 24 times with a 4ft-long rattan cane.

His ‘judicial corporal punishment’ –which will be inflicted by a ‘trained caner’ taught how to cause the most pain possible – is the maximum caning sentence that can be handed out in Singapore and could leave him scarred for life.

Yuen has also been ordered to serve 20 years in jail after being convicted of seven drug offences, including trafficking.

Yuen (pictured at school), 29, who went to £37,000-a-year Westminster School, will be stripped naked and strapped to a large wooden trestle.
Yuen (pictured at school), 29, who went to £37,000-a-year Westminster School, will be stripped naked and strapped to a large wooden trestle.

Yuen (pictured at school), 29, who went to £37,000-a-year Westminster School, will be stripped naked and strapped to a large wooden trestle.

He was originally facing the death penalty but the capital charge was dropped because the net weight of drugs involved was below 500g.

Last night Yuen’s family branded the caning sentence as ‘barbaric’ and ‘a form of torture’, and begged authorities in the former Crown colony – renowned for its no-nonsense approach to law enforcement – to grant him clemency.

Mr Hunt raised Yuen’s case with Singapore’s minister for foreign affairs, Vivian Balakrishnan, while visiting the country last week, and since then Foreign Office officials have made representations on Yuen’s behalf. Human rights groups have condemned Singapore’s use of the cane, saying it breaches the United Nations Convention Against Torture.

Yuen – first arrested over drugs offences in August 2016 – is being held at Changi prison. According to his family, who live in the UK, the only furniture he has in his cell, where he spends 22 hours a day, is a bamboo mat. He is allowed only two visits from family per month.

His younger sister, a 28-year-old development manager, said: ‘Without warning, the prison guards knocked on his cell to impose his caning sentence in early December. Ming exclaimed it was against his human rights. After hearing this, they did not proceed with the punishment.

Yuen's ‘judicial corporal punishment’ – which will be inflicted by a ‘trained caner’ taught how to cause the most pain possible. Pictured is a Changi prison officer using a dummy to demonstrate how inmates are caned
Yuen's ‘judicial corporal punishment’ – which will be inflicted by a ‘trained caner’ taught how to cause the most pain possible. Pictured is a Changi prison officer using a dummy to demonstrate how inmates are caned

Yuen's ‘judicial corporal punishment’ – which will be inflicted by a ‘trained caner’ taught how to cause the most pain possible. Pictured is a Changi prison officer using a dummy to demonstrate how inmates are caned

‘The prison guards went to get him again two weeks later. Ming repeated the same explanation, and again the caning did not proceed.

‘The authorities do not give advance warning of caning which is mentally torturous. It could happen any day.’

Details of Yuen’s plight are outlined in his handwritten appeal submission, in which he asked for a reduced sentence of eight and a half years and 15 strokes of the cane.

Human rights groups say caning in Singapore constitutes torture 

Human rights groups say caning in Singapore is a violation of international law and breaches the United Nations Convention Against Torture.

They insist that although Singapore has not ratified the convention, the prohibition on torture and cruel inhuman treatment is universal, called a ‘jus cogens’ norm, which means no domestic law can contradict it.

In 2015, the International Commission of Jurists, a human rights group, condemned the Singapore Court of Appeal for declining to say caning was unlawful. 

The court also said caning did not ‘breach the high threshold of severity and brutality that is required for it to be regarded as torture’.

Caning in Singapore is mandatory in dozens of offences including attempted murder and rape. Only medically fit men aged 16 to 50 are caned.

Offenders sentenced to death are not caned.

A former top club DJ in Singapore, his offences include two counts of ‘repeat drug trafficking’ – one of 69g and one of 60g of cannabis. Another offence included drug trafficking of 15g of crystal meth. In his failed appeal bid, he said: ‘Should a shorter sentence be imposed, it would allow me to remain useful in society.

‘I was misled in my youth, in an environment surrounded by drugs, to fall into the dark lure of addiction, oblivious to the hold it had on me.’ Before moving to Singapore in 2007, Yuen – the son of a marketing consultant from China and a Singapore-born marketing executive – was a pupil at Dulwich Prep School in South London and then Westminster School, whose alumni include Nick Clegg, Peter Ustinov and John Gielgud.

At Westminster School he gained 11 GCSEs – four A*s, six As, and one B. But while at the top public school he ‘got in with the wrong crowd’ and ended up in trouble with the Metropolitan Police.

In 2007, it emerged that Yuen was wanted by Scotland Yard over an alleged forged driving licences scam. A newspaper tracked him down to Singapore, where he reportedly admitted that he manufactured fake documents and sold them to pupils.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: ‘Our consular staff have been assisting a British man and his family since his arrest in Singapore in 2016. We strongly oppose the use of corporal punishment, such as caning, in all cases.’

A spokesman for the Singapore High Commission in London said: ‘Singapore deals with the drug problem comprehensively with the strictest enforcement coupled with the severest of penalties to protect the welfare of the public and our collective aspiration to live and raise our children in a safe oasis.’

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