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Judicial CP - September 1987

masthead New Straits Times, Kuala Lumpur, 2 September 1987

Death for mum, son gets life

By Shahrin Shuib

PENANG, Tues. -- New Zealand housewife Lorraine Phylis Cohen, 44, was sentenced to death by the High Court today for trafficking in 140.76gm of heroin.

However, her son, Aaron Shelton, 20, was sentenced to life imprisonment and six strokes of the rotan on an amended charge of possessing 34.14gm of heroin.

Lorraine stood in the dock staring blankly at the judge for several seconds when the death sentence was passed on her about 11 a.m.

She sat down only after a court official told her to do so.

By the time sentence was passed on Aaron 15 minutes later, Lorraine was in tears. Mother and son clasped each other's hands tightly.

Soon after the court adjourned, they were escorted separately out of the courtroom by policemen through different doors.

As Lorraine was led away from the dock she was heard to remark that the judge was "a bit too heavy on Aaron."

Mother and son arrive at an earlier preliminary hearingPicture from 'Parade' magazine (USA), October 1987 - probably from an earlier preliminary hearing

Aaron's father, Danny Cohen, 52, who was also present in court quickly rushed out of the courthouse as Lorraine and Aaron were led away.

Lorraine and Aaron were taken to the court lock-up on the ground floor of the court building where they spoke for about 15 minutes before they were taken in a Black Maria to the Penang Prison.

The courtroom as well as the corridors were packed with foreign journalists from Australia and New Zealand, and local police officers, lawyers, law students, and local and foreign television and radio crews.

Mr Justice Mohamed Dzaiddin Haji Abdullah delivered his judgment after a 13-day hearing at which mother and son were jointly charged with dadah trafficking at the Bayan Lepas international airport here at 5.10pm on Feb 9, 1985.

The Cohens, who are both New Zealand citizens from Auckland, were charged under section 39B of the amended Dangerous Drugs Act, which carries the mandatory death sentence upon conviction.

Mr Justice Mohammed Dzaiddin , in convicting Lorraine, said that section 39B(2) of the Act clearly provided that anyone found guilty of trafficking in dangerous drugs shall be punished on conviction with death.

"The rigour of this punishment is too well known and the accused (Lorraine), being no stranger to Malaysia, cannot complain that she did not know the law and the penalty for trafficking.

"Prior to her arrest, she was in Penang for two months and previous to that she had also visited Singapore and entered Malaysia through the Causeway in Johore Baru.

"Every visitor who comes to Malaysia must have read the warning boldly stated on the embarkation cards and the billboards at all entry points. Therefore, to say that the warning did not actually explain the meaning of trafficking is no excuse," the judge added.

Mr Justice Mohammad Dzaiddin also told the court that the price Lorraine had to pay for the risk she took was "deadly".

He said that there was no mitigating factor as the law made no excuse for a her being an addict.

"Mandatory sentence is one field of the criminal where my function as a judge can be described as 'mechanical' because we judges become the reluctant but obedient servants of the lawmakers as it is ordained that "Thou shall pass only one sentence known to law".

"Accordingly, I sentence the first accused (Lorraine) to death by hanging," the judge said.

In the case of Aaron, Mr Justice Dzaiddin Mohammad said the son had, on the balance of probabilities, rebutted the presumption of trafficking under section 37D(a) of the Act.

"I therefore find him guilty and convict him on the charge of being in possession of heroin under section 39(A) of the Act," the judge said.

Earlier, in his decision to convict them on the amended charge of possession the judge said he accepted Aaron's defence that the substantial amount was only for his own consumption, although it was just about double the statutory minimum of 15gm under section 3 (D) (a) of the amended Dangerous Drugs Act.


Mr Justice Mohammad Dzaiddin said Aaron's defence that he was only an addict, not a trafficker, and had suffered withdrawal from heroin after he was arrested was corroborated by the evidence of Penang's General Hospital medical officer, Dr Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman, who had given evidence for Aaron.

Dr Abdul Rashid had said that based on medical records, Aaron was admitted to the General Hospital on Feb 12, 1985, complaining of fever. The diagnosis was that he was suffering from drug withdrawal and he was discharged on Feb 18, 1985.

"You may consider yourself very lucky to escape the gallows by the skin of your teeth, so to speak.

"I hope you will learn a bitter lesson for the great risk you have taken in this case."

The judge added that he did not consider his youth a mitigating factor.

Earlier, defence counsel Mr Karpal Singh, in pleading for leniency for Aaron, said Aaron was only 18 years, four months and 15 days at the time of the offence.

He said Aaron was a "born addict" as testified to by consultant psychiatrist Dr Fraser MacDonald, adding that he was frail-looking and an unhealthy young man.

"It would not be in the interest of justice to detain him. A drug addict requires free medication, not imprisonment," Mr Karpal Singh said.

In reply, deputy public prosecutor Mohamed Bazin Idris urged the court to impose the maximum life imprisonment on Aaron, saying that he was an "incorrigible addict".

The prosecutor said that by sentencing Aaron to life imprisonment it would be a warning to foreigners visiting Malaysia not to abuse Malaysian laws.

Mr Karpal later told reporters he would file an appeal with the Supreme Court.

New Zealand Herald, Auckland, 2 September 1987

Mrs Cohen Sentenced To Hang: Life for Son


NZPA Staff, Penang

"I am happy for Aaron," said Lorraine Cohen after she was sentenced in the Penang High Court yesterday to hang for drug trafficking.

Mr Justice Mohamad Dzaiddin Abdullah sentenced her 20-year-old son Aaron Cohen to life imprisonment on an amended charge of possession -- not trafficking.

Aaron Cohen was sentenced to a whipping of six strokes and life imprisonment (20 years, with a possible remission of one-third for good behaviour).

Lorraine Cohen took the news stoically and showed no sign of emotion.

"That's just what I expected. I am happy for Aaron," she said.

cuttingTold that he was going to live, Aaron, for the first time in the course of the trial, wept. He wiped away the tears with a piece of pink tissue paper.

Lorraine put her hand on his leg and comforted him.


There were gasps of relief from members of the public in the courtroom when Aaron Cohen was told he had escaped the gallows. But the death sentence on Lorraine Cohen was greeted with total silence.



Aaron Cohen's appearance throughout the trial had been that of a drug addict.

"I accept his explanation that the heroin weighing 34.61g found on his person ... was for his personal consumption."

The judge took 30 minutes to deliver his verdict, after which Mr Karpal Singh made a 10-minute plea for mercy on behalf of both his clients.

Mr Singh said Aaron Cohen was a young man who had spent the past 30 months in a Malaysian prison facing the death sentence.

He asked Mr Justice Dzaiddin to impose the minimum penalty under section 39A of the act -- five years' imprisonment and six strokes of the rotan.

"Our law states there must be six strokes -- or a maximum of 24. I urge your lordship to recommend to the medical authorities that the whipping should not be carried out."

The judge said he was unimpressed by the plea and sentenced Aaron Cohen to life imprisonment and the six-stroke whipping.


Later, outside the court, Mr Singh said he would lodge appeals against both sentences with the Supreme Court in Kuala Lumpur.

In his submission to Mr Justice Dzaiddin, Penang's Deputy Public Prosecutor, Mr Bazain bin Idriz, said Aaron Cohen had come to Penang to deliberately flout the laws of Malaysia.

"The only punishment for an incorrigible addict is the maximum penalty under the act," Mr Bazain bin Idriz said.


New Zealand Herald, Auckland, 2 September 1987

Aaron: I'll Probably Suicide


NZPA Melbourne

Aaron Cohen was sentenced to life imprisonment by a Malaysian court yesterday, but it is possible he may impose the death sentence on himself.

When he and his mother were arrested two and a half years ago, he told journalists that he would commit suicide if he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

"I'll probably get hanging or 20 years," he said in August 1985.

"If I get life I'll probably suicide."

In May 1986 Lorraine Cohen wrote an emotional letter to her friends and lawyers saying she could not stand the torment of waiting to go to trial.


"If I was in this on my own it wouldn't be so bad," she said.

"But seeing Aaron and how he is looking worse every visit my heart breaks for him."

New Zealand Herald, Auckland, 2 September 1987

Cohens 'Never Stood Chance'


NZPA Adelaide

The condemned drug trafficker Lorraine Cohen and her son Aaron never stood a chance under the Malaysian judicial system, according to Mrs Barbara Barlow, who lost a son to the hangman's noose in Kuala Lumpur.

Mrs Barlow said the Cohens were now in for a terrible time as they waited for execution day.


Aaron leaves courtroom after sentenceAaron Cohen leaving the court after sentence

Mrs Barlow said she became close friends with Mrs Cohen, aged 44, and Aaron, 21, when she visited Malaysia during legal battles last year to try to save her son Kevin's life.

"I have met both of these people. I know them. I have spoken to them, I have laughed with them and cried with them," Mrs Barlow said.


"Lorraine has a marvellous sense of humour and is a very warm lady.

"She bitterly regrets what she has done to Aaron. I don't for one minute think she is a trafficker."

Mrs Barlow said Aaron, who has been sentenced to life imprisonment and six strokes of the cane, was in for a shocking time.

"Aaron is a very immature boy, he is just a waif of a boy and I just don't know how he is going to stand 20 years in there, never mind six strokes of the cane," she said.


masthead New Straits Times, Kuala Lumpur, 2 September 1987

'Most Kiwis aware of law'

PENANG, Tues. -- The majority of New Zealanders are aware of the tough Malaysian dadah laws, especially the death penalty for convicted traffickers in this country, the Deputy New Zealand High Commissioner to Malaysia, Mr Brian Lacey, said today.

He said the awareness came about following the much-publicised dadah trial involving two Australians, Brian Chambers and Kevin Barlow, who were both convicted by the High Court here for trafficking heroin.

Chambers and Barlow were both hanged in July last year for the offence.

Mr Lacey, who was present in the High Court to observe the proceedings of the Cohen trial, said this in the courthouse about 30 minutes before Mr Justice Mohamed Dzaiddin Haji Abdullah delivered his judgment.

He said the Cohen trial had generated much interest among New Zealanders through the wide publicity in the media.

The Singapore-based Asian TV Correspondence for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Mr Paul Lockyer, said the Cohens had been given a "very fair trial" by Mr Justice Mohamed Dzaiddin.

masthead New Straits Times, Kuala Lumpur, 2 September 1987

Precedent set: Karpal

PENANG, Tues. -- Counsel Karpal Singh said High Court judge Mohamed Dzaiddin Haji Abdullah had set a legal precedent by not convicting Aaron Cohen for trafficking in 34.61gm of heroin for which he was jointly charged with his mother.

He said the judge had instead imposed life imprisonment and ordered that Aaron be given six strokes of the rotan on an amended charge of possession of the heroin under Section 39(A) of the amended Dangerous Drugs Act although the amount exceeded the minimum 15gm.

Mr Karpal Singh said this to newsmen after the trial ended at 11.30am.

During the trial, Mr Karpal Singh told the court his defence of the Cohens was the first attempt by a Malaysia lawyer to rebut the presumption under Section 37(D) of the amended Dangerous Drugs Act that a dadah accused was a trafficker.

blob Follow-up: 28 March 1989 - Second judgment won't be in appeal

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