What is a Magistrate’s Complaint?
If you are a victim of an offence by another person and have made a police report, but the police have denied taking any further action, you have the option of privately prosecuting the perpetrator, in what is known as a Magistrate’s Complaint.
What is the process of filing a Magistrate’s Complaint?
Such a Complaint may be lodged online at the Judiciary’s website, using your Singpass details.
You will first be directed to complete a pre-filing assessment to check that your case is eligible to be heard by a Magistrate in this forum.
You will then be required to fill out a Complaint Form. This is an extremely important document and should contain all your allegations and what you have suffered as a result of the perpetrator’s actions.
You should also retain as much documentary evidence as possible to prove your case. These documents should then be uploaded directly together with your Complaint Form.
It is best to have all your evidence in order prior to filing. It would also be useful to spend some time drafting the facts and chronology of your complaint before filing.
Once the Complaint is filed, you will be contacted by the Courts with an appointment date to see and present your case before a Magistrate at the State Court.
Can all offences be brought to the Magistrate?
Note that a Magistrate’s Complaint may only be filed for a certain category of offences, that is, offences which are punishable by up to 3 years’ imprisonment, or fine, or both.
You also have to be 21 years old and above to make this application. If you are below 21, you can have a parent or guardian file it on your behalf.
What are some outcomes of a Magistrate’s Complaint?
The Magistrate may make one of the following orders:
- Direct for parties to attend criminal mediation
- Direct for the matter to be adjourned to a later date, for parties to negotiate and resolve the matter amicably
- Direct for the police to open an investigation
- Direct for a private summons to be issued on the perpetrator
- Dismiss the Complaint, if there are insufficient grounds for it to proceed
Are there any alternatives to a Magistrate’s Complaint?
If the matter comes under the scope of the Protection from Harassment Act (i.e. if the perpetrator committing a series of harassing acts), you may take out proceedings in the Protection from Harassment Court to obtain a Protection Order. A breach of such an order may similarly attract an imprisonment term or fine or both.
If what you are seeking are damages, instead of making a Magistrate’s Complaint, you may choose to make a civil claim against the perpetrator. If so, rather than having the State impose a fine or a jail term on the perpetrator (punishment), you would be able to get damages (compensation).
Do I need to engage a lawyer to file a Magistate’s Complaint?
Although you can easily file a Magistrate’s Complaint from the comfort of your computer, it would be to your benefit to have the guidance of an experienced criminal lawyer to assist with the drafting and filing of the Complaint, as well as to attend Court on your behalf and go through the Court process with you.
Because the Court may order for private prosecution, it is beneficial to an experienced lawyer who is familiar with what to expect, and the ways in which to prepare and angle your arguments, and possibly assist to draft a formal charge sheet.
Do I need to engage a lawyer if I face a Magistrate’s Complaint?
In the event that someone has lodged a Magistrate’s Complaint against you, because it is a criminal allegation, it would be to your benefit to get in touch with an experienced criminal lawyer to prepare your defence.
Advantages & Disadvantages of Magistrate’s Complaint
|Magistrate’s Complaint aka Private Prosecution||– Less cumbersome and faster than civil trials- Legal costs are rarely awarded against the complainant even if the prosecution fails||– Even if the accused is found guilty, the victim would not be given compensation unless he commences a separate civil action.|
|Civil Claim||– Victim may receive compensatory damages||– More cumbersome and slower than Magistrate’s Complaints- Legal costs may be awarded against the complainant if the claim fails|
|Public Prosecution||– The trial is conducted by a public prosecutor. In both magistrate’s complaints and civil claims, the complainant has to bear the cost of hiring his own lawyer.|