The Criminal Law Temporary Provisions Act (“the Act”) provides for the detention and supervision of individuals suspected of being involved in organised crime or terrorist activities through the issuance of Detention Orders (“DO” s) or Police Supervision Orders (“PSO” s) – therein maintaining public safety, peace, and good order in the country.
Main Objectives of the Amendment Bill
- Extend the operation of the Act for a further period of 5 years
- Provide greater clarity in the scope of the Act
- Clarify the powers of the Minister under the Act
- Strengthen the administration of the Police Supervision Order (PSO) regime.
Extended by 5 years
The 5-year extension of the Act took effect on 21st October 2019.
Since its enactment in 1955, the Act has contained a ”sunset clause”, which allows it to be renewed every 5 years.
The justification for such a clause is to enable future amendments to the Act to cater to the country’s security needs during each 5-year interval – as Singapore’s challenges to national security and public safety are ever-changing.
The Act grants the Government temporary powers and provisions that are exceptional such that they can address emerging threats effectively. This periodic review and extension process allows the Government to assess the effectiveness of the law’s current provisions, while considering amendments to tackle foreseeable threats.
The sunset clause allows the government to respond to ever-changing circumstances and adapt to changes in crime patterns.
The review process also ensures that the Act remains consistent with Constitutional requirements and international standards, 2 considerations raised during parliamentary debates.
Restrict the Minister’s Powers by Clarifying the Scope of Criminal Activities under the Act
The Bill proposes a new Fourth Schedule into the Act, listing the types of criminal activity in which the Minister for Home Affairs (the “Minister“) can make orders for DO’s or PSO’s under Section 30.
The list of criminal activities in the new Fourth Schedule is as follows:
- Unlicensed moneylending;
- Drug trafficking;
- Involvement in a secret society or as a gangster;
- Human trafficking;
- Robbery with firearms;
- Gang rape;
- General offences relating to the participation in or facilitation of activities for an Organised Criminal Group; and
- Attempting to carry out, abetting, or being a party to a criminal conspiracy to carry out any activity listed in this schedule.
Read more: Aiding and Abetting Charges in Singapore
Clarify That the Minister’s Decisions on The Matters in Section 30(1) of The Act Are Final
The Bill clarifies that the Minister’s decisions on matters such as whether a person has been associated with activities of a criminal nature and whether it is necessary to detain such a person in the interests of public safety, peace, and good order, are final.
Pursuant to Section 74 of the Internal Security Act (“ISA”), a Detention Order allows any officer of the law to detain an individual that has acted, or is about to act, or is likely to act in any manner prejudicial to the security of Singapore, without trial for a specified period. An officer typically uses a Detention Order for national security, public safety, or public order concerns.
Police Supervision Orders
A Police Supervision Order restricts an individual’s activities and movements for a specified period. The purpose of the PSO is to monitor and supervise the individual’s behaviour, and to protect the community from potential harm.
Section 309 of the Criminal Procedure Code lists the power to issue a PSO.
Strengthen The Administration of The PSO Regime
The Bill will strengthen the administration of the PSO regime with the following key changes:
- Incorporate the obligations and restrictions that a Criminal Law Police Supervisee (CLPS) must abide by into subsidiary legislation. The move is to accord the Minister more flexibility to impose the necessary obligations and restrictions on a CLPS; and
- Empower Central Narcotics Bureau officers, other than Police officers, to investigate PSO breaches.
Frequently Asked Questions on the Amendment Bill
Why use the CLTPA when there is legislation for those crimes?
Prosecuting offenders in Court is always the preferred course of action. However, there are instances when Court prosecution is not possible, such as when accomplices and witnesses are unwilling to testify in Court for fear of reprisals. The CLTPA is thus used as a last resort against offenders in such instances.
How are powers under the Act exercised?
The powers under the Act have been used judiciously, and only in cases where prosecution in Court was not possible, for example, when witnesses were unwilling to give evidence in Court due to fear of reprisals.
Does the Minister’s finality clause take away judicial review?
The finality clause and other amendments do not affect the Courts’ power of judicial review.
In Singapore, judicial review is the process by which the High Court exercises its supervisory jurisdiction over some individual or body that performs public functions and duties (i.e., a public body). Judicial review usually entails overturning the decisions of the public body.
The courts still retain the power to review the Minister’s decisions under the Act, based on the traditional tests of illegality, irrationality, and procedural impropriety.
The test for:
- Illegality: whether a public body has acted beyond the scope of its powers and duties – typically through actions that are contrary to or forbidden by law.
- Irrationality: whether a decision is so outrageous in its defiance of logic or of accepted moral standards that no sensible person could have arrived at it.
- Procedural impropriety: whether the procedures prescribed by statute have not been followed in the process of decision-making or if the ‘rules of natural justice’ have not been adhered to.
Does the Minister have absolute power to issue DOs and PSOs?
The Act contains substantial safeguards for the issuance of DOs and PSOs. The Public Prosecutor’s consent has to be obtained before any DO or the Minister issues PSO.
Subsequently, an independent Advisory Committee reviews each DO and PSO. The committee comprises prominent private citizens, including Justices of the Peace, former judges, and senior lawyers. The Advisory Committee will then present its recommendations to the President, who may confirm, vary, or cancel the order on the advice of the Cabinet.