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Areas of Representation
How Can One Be Arrested?
- A police officer may arrest a person without a warrant where he/she is reasonably suspected of being involved in an arrestable offence. Such an arrest must be made on the grounds of credible information and founded on some definite fact which throws suspicion upon the person arrested.
- These offences include, but are not limited to, voluntarily causing grievous hurt, rape, theft, robbery, drug consumption, robbery or trafficking.
- A person can also be arrested without a warrant for a non-arrestable offence if on the demand of the police officer, he/she refuses to give his name and residential address.
- Persons who are arrested without warrant can only be detained in custody without warrant for a period not exceeding 48 hours.
- Where the offence is not an arrestable offence, the police or respective law enforcement agency must obtain an arrest warrant from the Courts. Without obtaining a warrant, the police are not ordinarily allowed to make an arrest.
- An example is the offence of causing hurt (distinguished from grievous hurt) for which the police will first conduct an investigation after a police report has been made. Then, they will decide whether to obtain an arrest warrant against the suspected offender.
- A person arrested with a warrant must be produced to Court without unnecessary delay.
- Depending on the offence, these persons may be offered bail.
- The right of private arrest exists in two situations. First, a private person is allowed to arrest any person who commits an arrestable non-bailable offence in his view or presence. Second, a victim can apprehend a person, who commits an offence against the victim or the victim’s property, if the person refuses to give his name and residential address and/or provides one that the victim has reason to believe is false. The person making the arrest must hand over the suspect to the nearest police officer or police station without unnecessary delay. If the person has committed a non-arrestable offence, the police officer must re-arrest him.
- As long as a private person is in such close proximity that he can be certain an offence has been committed, the right of private arrest will vest in him notwithstanding that he did not actually witness the offence.
Will I Be Informed of Why I Am Being Arrested?
After being arrested, the police must inform you as soon as possible of the grounds of your arrest. While there is no specific timeline for such information to be given, ordinarily the police can only hold you for a maximum of 48 hours upon arrest. After such time, they must produce you before a magistrate and make an application to further remand you.
Do I Have the Right to be Defended by a Legal Counsel?
- While every detained person has the right to consult a legal practitioner of his choice, such right arises only after a reasonable time after arrest and not immediately upon arrest. This is to avoid interference with police investigations, ensure that effective investigations are carried out and that the public is adequately protected.
- Note that the police are under no obligation to inform him/her about such right to counsel. Furthermore, where an arrested person is a foreign national, there is no right to consular access before any statements are recorded.
What Happens after Arrest at the Police Station?
- Upon being arrested, you will likely be searched and taken back to a regional police headquarters where the police would remand you and question you as part of their investigations.
- Any personal belongings that you have with you will have to be surrendered to the Police. They will make a log of these belongings and you will be asked to verify it. A copy of the list will also be given to you.
- Upon being arrested and detained, you may request to make a phone call to your family members. However, such request may be refused if it could interfere with investigations.
- After the questioning session, you may be remanded in a police lock-up at the station for further investigations. Otherwise, you may be released, placed on bail and called back for further investigations at a later time.
- Note that being arrested does not equate to having been charged for the offence that you have been arrested for. Depending on the outcome of investigations, you may be formally charged by the Public Prosecutor in a court before a trial in can begin.
- We recommend that you engage solicitors when you are being investigated, regardless of whether you have been charged, as solicitors can help you understand matters better, advise you for your next statement and more importantly, make representations on your behalf to reduce the chances of you being charged.
- Whilst in custody, you will be interviewed at length with breaks in between. There are 2 types of statements that the police may take from you, loosely known as the “long statement” and the “cautioned statement”.
- You may also be taken to the crime scene to assist the police with investigations in recreating the events of the alleged offence.
- Blood may be drawn for DNA samples as well as your fingerprint and photo mug-shot taken for identification. You may also be asked to take a lie-detector test.
- Answers that you give and anything you say in response to questions that the police ask as part of their investigations are called the ‘long statement’.
- Though you need not say anything that could incriminate you, if you later reveal facts in trial that were not mentioned in your long statement, the court may draw an adverse inference from your failure to have mentioned such facts in your long statement.
- After questioning, the long statement will be read back to you and given to you for your verification. Look through it carefully, correct the discrepancies, sign the relevant amendments and at the bottom of the page as indicated by the police officer.
- If you do not understand English, you may request for an interpreter to interpret the statement for recording as well as when it is read back to him/her.
- It is always good practice to record down as much as possible as to what you have told the officer before seeing your lawyer. You should provide your lawyer with this.
- An arrested person can only be ordinarily detained for a maximum of 48 hours. If the Police wishes to detain you beyond the initial 48 hours, they would present you before a magistrate (judge) in court or via video link. In court, the investigating police officer must give reasons for detaining you further. The magistrate then decides whether you should be further detained or be placed on bail.
- If the Police does not detain you for more than 48 hours, you will likely be put on Police bail to ensure you come back to the station or to attend court when told to do so. You will need to get a family member or friend to bail you out (See: Bail).
- Investigations could take from a few days to even years. It is advisable to co-operate with the police by providing all information you have at hand such as any witnesses, defences or alibi. Alternatively, you can engage a lawyer to prepare a letter of representation of these details on your behalf.
- Once the investigation officer has gathered sufficient evidence, the police will submit the results of the investigations to the Public Prosecutor who will make the final decision on whether to formally charge you and proceed with the prosecution.
- Depending on the circumstances of the case, the Public Prosecutor may exercise his/her discretion to not ultimately proceed with prosecuting you for the offence, which the police has arrested you, regardless of whether there is sufficient evidence.
What Happens after a Decision Has Been Made to Charge Me?
- If a decision is made to charge you, the investigation officer will arrange a meeting at the police station to prefer the charge against you where he/she will read the charge and ask you if you admit or do not admit to the charge.
- Even if you disagree with the charge, signing the charge sheet does not mean that you are admitting to the charge. It just acknowledges that you have read and understood the charge(s) being brought against you.
- If you refuse to sign the charge, your refusal to do so will be recorded and may be presented to the court.
- You will know that you are about to get charged in Court if the investigation officer either informs you or if he/she informs you that you need to bring a bailor to the police station who needs to secure your attendance for Court.
- A ‘cautioned statement’ is taken when you are formally charged. The purpose of a ‘cautioned statement’ is to give you a last opportunity to reveal facts and defences that you intend to rely on at trial for the offences which you have been charged with. State all that you can even if that means repeating some points from your long statement(s).
- The police must serve and read to you a caution prior to taking your statement. This informs you that if you rely on a fact in your defence in court which was not revealed in your ‘cautioned statement’, the judge at trial may be less likely to believe you.
- If the suspect does not understand English, he/she may request for an interpreter to interpret the statement for recording as well as when it is read back to him/her.
- After answering, the cautioned statement will be read back to you and given to you for verification. Look through it carefully, ensure that you correct any discrepancies, sign the relevant amendments and at the bottom of the page as indicated by the police officer.
- It is always good practice to record as much as possible down as to what you have told the officer before seeing your lawyer.
- A copy of your cautioned statement must be given to you (unlike the long statement).