MHA refutes allegations by Australian national that he saw inmates being walked to execution

SINGAPORE – The Ministry of Home Affairs has refuted the allegations of an Australian national who said he suffered here while in remand for drug charges.

Businessman Philip George Sceats gave an account of his time behind bars to Australian media, after he was granted a discharge not amounting to an acquittal for his drug charge last year.

He said he was a “broken man” after close to a year behind bars, claiming to have seen 14 fellow inmates being “walked to their execution” – a fate he faced as he had been charged with importing cocaine.

He also claimed that he was subjected to a strict regime under which inmates were caned “on the bare bum” if they did something wrong, and that his cell lights were never turned off.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, MHA clarified on Sunday (Nov 1) that contrary to his assertions, Mr Sceats “was never housed together with inmates on death row”.

He was kept instead in a separate area meant for remanded persons at Changi Prison, said the ministry, which oversees the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) and Singapore Prison Service.

The ministry also noted that the cells for those in remand are fitted with lights that are scheduled to automatically switch off at night.

Mr Sceats was given an hour of “out-of-cell” time, along with all other inmates in remand, said the ministry, in response to Mr Sceats’ claim that he had only 20 minutes of freedom every day.

The ministry further clarified in its statement that inmates are only caned for serious offences, such as aggravated or repeated assault on another inmate, or assaulting a prison officer. This punishment is reviewed by an independent committee and is confirmed by the Commissioner of Prisons before it is carried out, said the ministry.

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It added that the Singapore authorities had facilitated consular access to him throughout his remand here.

The Australian High Commission in Singapore was informed of the arrest of Mr Sceats, said the ministry. He had been arrested at the airport in March 2018, after airport officers found 39.4g of cocaine and methadone tablets in his luggage.

The CNB subsequently applied for a discharge not amounting to an acquittal for Mr Sceats in February 2019, following further investigations, said the ministry.

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He was issued a stern warning for possessing methadone tablets.

Since his release, Mr Sceats had told Australian media that he had been framed for smuggling cocaine and he is determined to find out what happened.

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