CRIMINAL lawyer Amolat Singh sometimes wakes up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, wondering if he has done enough for his client who could go to the gallows if convicted of an offence.

But it has not stopped the 55-year-old from volunteering to take on three to four capital cases every year since 1993.

His dedication won him the inaugural Legal Assistance Scheme for Capital Offences (Lasco) award in November last year, with Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong noting that Mr Singh adjusts his work schedule to take on such cases.

While the work is highly stressful, given the high stakes, Mr Singh said he is in it to honour the noblest tradition of his profession.

'And that is to stand up for someone who might have to pay for his crime with his life,' added the veteran lawyer who runs his own practice.

He recalled a prison visit to see a client charged with murder. The man made a simple plea which struck Mr Singh. 'Please help me,' he had said.

'You just have to do your best for them,' Mr Singh said.

'Whether they are guilty or not is the judge's job. My job is to put their best case forward.'

And this means making sure that every bit of evidence put forth by the prosecution is vigorously tested.

'You get to appear before senior judges so you know you have to get your work done. No short cuts, and no cutting corners, because your work will be heavily scrutinised,' Mr Singh said.

Victories do not come by often but he noted that taking on capital cases can be good training for lawyers, especially those just starting out, as they will get to learn from a more senior lawyer.

In the past, Mr Singh has assisted veteran criminal lawyer Subhas Anandan on some Lasco cases. Together, they have helped to save men from the gallows.

For example, in 1994, Abdul Nasir Amer Hamsah, then 25, had been accused of murdering a Japanese tourist by stomping on her face in her room at the then Oriental Hotel.

The two lawyers were able to raise questions about whether his intention had really been to kill. He was eventually jailed for 18 years and given 18 strokes of the cane.