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Judicial CP - August 1989

New Straits Times, Kuala Lumpur, 10 August 1989

Kiwi housewife escapes the gallows

Life term affirmed


By Zaharah Aziz

KUALA LUMPUR, Wed. -- New Zealand housewife Lorraine Phylis Cohen, 46, today won her appeal in the Supreme Court against her conviction and death sentence on a charge of trafficking in 140.76gm of heroin.

Lorraine's conviction was quashed and substituted with one for possession of the drugs.

She was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Her appeal against the Penang High Court decision handed down on Sept 1, 1987, was allowed by the court comprising five judges -- Lord President Tun Abdul Hamid Omar, Chief Justice of Malaya Tan Sri Hashim Yeop A. Sani, Chief Justice of Borneo Tan Sri Lee Hun Hoe and Supreme Court judges Tan Sri Eusoffe Abdoolcader and Datuk Mohamed Yusoff Mohamed.


The court, however, dismissed the appeal of her son, Aaron Shelton, 22, who had also appealed against the High Court's decision sentencing him to life imprisonment and six strokes of the rotan on an amended charge of possession 34.61gm of heroin.


The Supreme Court also today dismissed the Public Prosecutor's appeal against the High Court's decision in Aaron's case.

The judgment was delivered at 5.40pm after the judges deliberated for 50 minutes.

When the court rose, Lorraine who was swarmed by local and foreign journalists said that she was relieved as she had expected the worst.


Life sentence in Malaysia means 20 years' jail and with one-third remission for good behaviour the Cohens would have to serve about 13 years.

However, since they have been in custody for the past 4 years, they will be released in nine years.

On her life in jail, Lorraine said with a smile: "It is good ... the place is clean ... and the food is all right. I've got used to it ... 4 years now ...."

Lorraine and Aaron, both from Auckland, arrived at the courthouse in a prison bus at 10.45am.

She wore a long pink blouse with small purple prints and a pair of purple pants. Aaron wore a dark blue T-shirt and grey pants.

More than 30 grounds were argued in their appeal. Present during the hearing was the New Zealand High Commissioner to Malaysia, Mr Ray Jermyn. Also present were lawyers from New Zealand and relatives of Lorraine and Aaron.

New Zealand Herald, Auckland, 10 August 1989

Cohens cheat hangman but both jailed for life


By Tim Donoghue, NZPA, Kuala Lumpur

Lorraine Cohen was last night saved from the gallows in Malaysia when the Supreme Court upheld her appeal against the death sentence for drug trafficking.

Her sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.

Her son Aaron's appeal against his life sentence was dismissed and mother and son will now spend a minimum of 13 years in jail.


The court threw out a prosecution appeal to have her son Aaron's conviction for possession amended to trafficking.

However, it showed no leniency in also dismissing Aaron's appeal for a reduction of his life imprisonment term.

His six-stroke whipping sentence stands.

Lorraine and Aaron Cohen, who have been in jail since their arrest in February 1985, sat in the dock with their lives in the balance for 50 minutes.


Lorraine Cohen was obviously relieved, but Aaron was shattered.

She expected to see a lot of Aaron in jail.

When she said that, Aaron sat behind her in the dock, tears in his eyes, in a dishevelled condition.

Aaron Cohen's appeal to reduce his life sentence was dismissed.

But Mr Karpal Singh intends to appeal to have Aaron's whipping reduced.

Aaron was bitterly disappointed.

"I've got to spend 13 years in Penang Jail. What sort of life is that?" he asked, in tears.

But he did say: "I feel relieved for mum."


Aaron slept during the cross-appeal to have his life sentence changed to hanging and said the sleep was the best he had had for months.

"I couldn't understand what was going on anyhow. I needed the sleep."

During the adjournment Aaron's half-brother Michael leaned over the back of the dock to boost his flagging spirits.


New Zealand Herald, Auckland, 11 August 1989

Cohen spotlight focuses on rotan lashing


By Bevan Rapson

Aaron Cohen's appointment with the Malaysian rotan cane continues to prompt fears for the 22-year-old's physical and mental well-being.

Attention has shifted from Lorraine Cohen -- who was saved this week from the gallows after a Supreme Court appeal -- to her son, whose six-stroke whipping sentence still stands.

Amnesty International said yesterday that it was ready to campaign against the lashing, a punishment it described as "cruel, inhumane and degrading".

An Auckland psychiatrist who gave evidence at the Cohens' High Court trial said the young man, who may have been born a heroin addict, would find the punishment "very psychologically destabilising."

Surgical shock

The end of the cane used in such a whipping is reported to be so thin, with the method used producing a high-velocity flicking impact, that the skin of the buttocks is split and the flesh parted similar to a surgical incision.

The rotan can "cut right to the bone," the psychiatrist, Dr Fraser McDonald, said yesterday.

"You can go into full surgical shock after such a blow. I would worry a great deal as to how well he would cope with it."

Aaron was a "frail boy" who was obviously an addict. "He is obviously only just coping psychologically," Dr McDonald said.

A treatment programme such as that offered at Auckland's Odyssey House was what Aaron needed.

Sentence appeal

Dr McDonald, a former superintendent of Carrington Hospital, went to Penang in 1987 to give the court an insight into the likely mental condition of the Cohens when they were arrested two and a half years previously.

He said he was "absolutely thrilled" to hear that Mrs Cohen was to be spared.

The news also delighted Amnesty International which now hoped the Malaysian Government would revoke the country's death penalty, a spokeswoman for the organisation, Megan Bray, said in Wellington.

She believed an appeal against the lashing sentence would be mounted by the Cohens' defence lawyer, Mr Karpal Singh.

"If that appeal fails then Amnesty International will undertake a letter-writing campaign."

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

blob Follow-up: 7 February 1990 - Bid to get whipping set aside challenged

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