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ABC journalist Peter Lloyd begins jail sentence.



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RN PM ABC journalist Peter Lloyd begins jail sentence

02/12/2008

MARK COLVIN: The ABC's former South Asia correspondent Peter Lloyd began a jail sentence in Singapore's Changi jail today.

He was sentenced to 10 months for using and possessing the drug methamphetamine and having the utensils to consume it.

The ABC's Greg Jennett was in court to report on the trial.

GREG JENNETT: Peter Lloyd walked in casually, saying nothing to the media as he passed by at Singapore's subordinate court and faced District Judge Hamidah Ibrahim.

Proceedings were running a little bit late for the hearing and he mixed and mingled, chatting to his former wife Kirsty and some other friends who were attending for the day. He also, being a journalist, knew a number of the media representatives and spoke to them as well.

He looked fairly composed, certainly in comparison to four months ago when he was arrested and had spent some time in remand.

But once proceedings began he sat quietly in the dock and listened to submissions from both his defence team and the prosecution.

MARK COLVIN: And what were those submissions?

GREG JENNETT: Well, Hamidul Haq, his leading defence lawyer outlined a case built largely on a medical defence, a back record really of travails that he said Mr Lloyd had suffered as a result of his years witnessing mass casualty events, particularly in the Asia region; so that was the Bali Bombing and the Thailand Tsunami.

He said that he was in a disassociated state when he consumed the drug ice, for the purposes of self-medicating. That he was suffering depression.

Peter Lloyd has used the term he was in a 'zombie-like' state through the first half of this year, when there were some transactions in March and ultimately another in July when he was arrested.

MARK COLVIN: Was he allowed to bring forward medical evidence to this effect?

GREG JENNETT: Medical evidence was already submitted in writing from a number of experts, some who are described by Hamidul Haq, the defence lawyer, as experts particularly in journalism-related post traumatic stress disorder and that was already known to the trial judge.

He also outlined a couple of human arguments for grounds of compassion and these went to his nine-year-old son Jack, who was in Australia and suffers extreme epilepsy.

It was said by the lawyer that he faces an uncertain life expectancy and that without Peter Lloyd having access to him that may represent a severe form of punishment as well under the circumstances.

MARK COLVIN: What was the prosecution asking for?

GREG JENNETT: The prosecution quibbled with a few of the points that Hamidul Haq had made; one was his description of the possession of drug utensils as a rather insignificant charge, they questioned that.

And they also went to the question of to what extent there is a causal link between behaviour, and in this case purchasing the drug and consuming the drug ice, and a mental condition.

So they argued against that and said that it was very much in Singapore's public interest that there be a tough stance against illicit drugs.

They also outlined a couple of facts which hadn't been known before; one was their assertion that he had paid SGD$1000 for drugs in March.

MARK COLVIN: And what did the judge say?

GREG JENNETT: The judge listened for a long time to Hamidul Haq's submission and then from the prosecutor Natalie Morris, before then offering a very brief period of consideration, probably 10 to 15

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seconds and coming out quickly then with the sentence.

And that was an eight-month term for the possession and consumption of drugs; those two to be served concurrently. Plus an extra two months for owning drug utensils relating to the consumption of ketamine.

MARK COLVIN: I understand he was taken straight off to jail. What do we know about the parole system in Singapore and when he might get out?

GREG JENNETT: It is not uncommon we were told by those familiar with the justice system here for someone to serve less than the sentence handed down by the presiding judge, so in this case 10 months.

There is an ongoing review process for prisoners throughout their detention and, although no-one's speculating how much less than 10 months he may actually serve, it is a well-founded practice apparently in Singapore, that he could expect less with good behaviour.

But certainly Peter Lloyd did stay in the dock for another 10 minutes or so before he had the opportunity to chat with those, including Kirsty McIvor, and he was then led away downstairs to the awaiting prison van for his trip to Changi.

Greg Jennett in Singapore.

MARK COLVIN: And a spokeswoman for ABC Corporate announced this evening that Peter Lloyd no longer had a job. This was because he was now unavailable to work.

She said the ABC had valued and respected Peter Lloyd as an employee and as an outstanding journalist.

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