Singapore’s legal landscape is home to several courts, organised in a hierarchical system, with each serving a different purpose. These courts include the Constitutional Tribunal, Court of Appeal, High Court, and the State Courts – of which there are the District Courts, Magistrates’ Courts, Juvenile Court, Coroners’ Court, and Small Claims Tribunals.
Why is it Important to Know the Court’s Jurisdiction and Powers?
Understanding the jurisdiction and powers of Singapore Courts is essential for anyone who wants to navigate the country’s legal system effectively and protect their legal rights. It is important for the following reasons;
Ensuring Access to Justice
By understanding the jurisdiction of different Courts in Singapore, individuals and businesses can make informed decisions about where to file their legal claims. This helps ensure that the appropriate Court hears their cases and that they have access to justice.
Avoiding Legal Complications
A lack of understanding of the jurisdiction and powers of Singapore Courts can result in legal complications and unnecessary delays. For example, if a case is filed in the wrong Court, it may be dismissed, requiring the plaintiff to restart the legal process.
Understanding Legal Rights
Understanding the jurisdiction and powers of Singapore Courts can also help individuals and businesses understand their legal rights and what legal remedies are available to them. This can be especially important in complex legal matters like commercial disputes or criminal cases.
Complying with Laws and Regulations
Understanding the jurisdiction and powers of Singapore Courts is also crucial for compliance with Singapore’s legal system. By understanding the appropriate Court to file a claim, individuals and businesses can avoid violating Singapore’s laws and regulations, which could result in penalties and legal repercussions.
Read more: Summary of the Criminal Trial Process in Singapore
Magistrate Court’s Jurisdiction
The Magistrate Courts handle less serious criminal cases and civil disputes. Their jurisdiction is limited to the ability to hear the following types of cases:
Criminal cases where the maximum punishment is a fine of up to $10,000, a jail term of up to 5 years, 6 strokes of the cane, or any combination of the punishments. It should be noted that although they handle offences with a maximum term of 5 years, Magistrates can only mete out sentences of up to 3 years imprisonment.
Civil cases where the claim amount does not exceed $60,000. These cases can include contract disputes, property damage, and personal injury.
Section 151 of the Criminal Procedure Code
Magistrates’ Complaints, which are complaints made by individuals against other individuals for certain criminal offences, such as assault, theft, and mischief
Magistrate Court’s Powers
Magistrates’ Courts can issue orders, summonses, warrants, and injunctions. They can also impose fines and custodial sentences for criminal offences within their jurisdiction
District Court’s Jurisdiction
In Singapore, the District Courts handle less complex civil and criminal cases. Their jurisdiction is limited to the ability to hear the following types of cases:
Criminal cases where the maximum punishment is a fine of up to $30,000, a jail term of up to 10 years, up to 12 strokes of the cane, or any combination of the punishments.
Civil cases where the claim amount is between $60,000 and $250,000. These cases can include contract disputes, property damage, and personal injury. In the case of road traffic accident claims or claims for personal injuries arising from industrial accidents, the claim amount is increased to a sum or sums not exceeding $500,000.
District Court’s Powers
Regarding powers, the District Courts can issue orders, summonses, warrants, and injunctions. They can also impose fines and custodial sentences for criminal offences within their jurisdiction. Additionally, they have the power to order parties to attend mediation or other alternative dispute resolution processes to resolve civil disputes.
Read more: Understand the Differences between Criminal Fraud & Civil Fraud in Singapore
FAQs on Singapore Courts
Can I appeal a decision made by the Magistrates’ / District Courts?
Yes, you can appeal a decision made by the Magistrates’ / District Courts to the High Court if you are dissatisfied with the outcome.
Do I need a lawyer to represent me in the Magistrates’ Courts?
No, you do not need a lawyer to represent you in the Magistrates’ Courts in Singapore. However, it is generally recommended to seek legal advice or representation to ensure that your rights are protected and that you receive a fair outcome.
Can the Magistrates’ Courts issue injunctions?
Yes, the Magistrates’ Courts in Singapore can issue injunctions in certain cases.