BRITISH author Alan Shadrake on Tuesday admitted a factual error in his book and told the High Court he will be correcting it in the next print run.

Shadrake, a 75-year-old Briton, conceded he was wrong to state that first-time drug abusers ordinarily received the maximum 10 years' jail. But he denied scandalising the Singapore judiciary in his book, entitled Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice In The Dock.

His lawyer M. Ravi said that despite the error, Shadrake stood by assertions that the son of a former High Court judge, who was eventually jailed eight months for consuming cocaine, had been treated very leniently by the courts because of his family's wealth and standing. Mr Ravi argued that this was the perception of people on the street and on the Internet and Shadrake was just pointing this out.

However, Justice Quentin Loh noted that the author, described as an international investigative journalist by his lawyer, had to be aware there had been cases where offenders were placed on probation or fined. Added the judge: 'I dont't think the average man on the street will think an eight-month jail term is too light'.

In court on Tuesday, Mr Ravi went through each of the 14 passages which were picked as contemptuous by Senior State Counsel Hema Subramaniam on Monday.

Taking each passage in turn, Mr Ravi argued that none of the allegedly contemptuous items posed any risk as Singaporeans were well-educated and could judge for themselves the truth of allegations made against the judiciary. The points made by Shadrake in the book constituted 'fair and reasonable criticism', the lawyer said.

Separately, Shadrake is being investigated by the police for criminal defamation, an offence which carries a maximum two-year jail term and a fine.

Author admits factual error