1. All men are equal under the Law for sentencing purposes
2. The Law takes into account individual characteristics of the person in question and the unique surrounding circumstances for sentencing purposes.
3. These two legal facts are sometimes in tension. The role of the court is to resolve this tension.
4. The particular individual characteristic of Melvyn Tan that has been highlighted in the press his renowed ability to play the piano well and his potential contribution to Singapore's music scene.
5. The unique surrounding circumstances that have been highlighted in the press is that he chose to surrender because his parents are aged and he wants to visit them. He could well choose not to do have submitted the jurisdiction of Singapore.
6. It is problematic that these are the facts that have been highlighted in the press because these circumstances did not exist 28 years ago when Melvyn Tan committed the crime.
7. The individual characteristic of Melvyn Tan 28 years ago when he committed the crime was an opportunity to fulfil a potential of a talent which with the benefit of hindsight, materialised.
8. What the court has appeared to have done, however, is also to take into account unique circumstances that have materialised over the space of 28 years after the criminal act is done.
9. There is nothing problematic usually if the court takes into account events after the act is done for sentencing purposes if it suggests that the intention of the criminal is unique or understanable on the onset from the average criminal or has done acts to somewhat mitigate that crime. It is also not problematic if the court take into account the fact that the penalty has already been exacted somewhat somehow.
10. An illustration is a robber who stole but donated all his money to charity instead for paying his gambling debts. A further illustration is where Barry injures Geist but risks his own life by rushing him to hospital as fast as he could, and is shown to be repentant by his later acts. A further illustration is a man who assaulted a women 40 years ago but is now already 80 and is prone to heart attacks and doctors say he is not going to live much longer. A further illustration is the father who killed a daughter who is suffering very very badly to relieve her of the pain.
11. Melvyn Tan committed the crime, like many all other NS defaulters, for his own sake. It is difficult to know what Melvyn Tan could have done to mitigate the crime. It took him 28 years to submit to the jurisdiction of Singapore.
12. There are perhaps various NS defaulters who had various opportunites to fulfil their potential of talent but have been lost because were sentenced to prison, and later required to perform their obligations.
13. There are NS non-defaulters who had various opportunities to fulfil a potential of talent which would have materialised if they did not serve their NS obligations.
14. Many NS defaulters do so in order to work to pay off debts for their families.
15. The tension between the two legal facts does not seem to be properly resolved in this case. It is not difficult to consider the circumstances which had arisen unique. However, the difficulty is how to consider Melyvn Tan's acts as one which was motivated by unqiue intentions or that in these 28 years, he had been somewhat somewhere been the subject of a unique non-legal "penalty" - compared to other NS defaulters that generally suffers a greater sentence.
16. Putting these two ideals aside, this is an emminently wise decision from a utilitarian perspective.