The Global Peace Index 2020 has ranked Singapore as the second-most safest country in the world. Singapore can proudly boast of an efficient and extremely sound legal system which has been a key contributor to the country’s tremendous economic growth.
Singapore was a former British colony, which is why the Singapore legal system is based on the English common law. All citizens are deemed equal in the eyes of the law irrespective of their race, religion, or creed.
Criminal law in Singapore is mainly statutory and can be traced back to the Singapore Penal Code. The Penal Code was based on Indian law, originally, and has now been replaced by the Criminal Procedure Code.
Criminal offences in Singapore are tried according to the Criminal Procedure Code, and the proceedings are conducted in the High Court and the Court of Appeal. Criminal proceedings are also conducted at the Criminal Mentions Court, especially when the prosecutor is ready to formally charge the accused.
What are the steps involved in the criminal process in Singapore?
The criminal process in Singapore involves a series of steps, which are:
- The reporting of a crime
- Beginning of police investigation. If there is an investigation against you, this is where you may seek the help of a criminal lawyer in Singapore.
- You may be arrested if you are charged with an “arrestable” offence. The police must serve you a warrant for your arrest in Singapore. However, under special circumstances, you may be arrested even without a warrant. The police must, however, explain the charges against you.
- Before criminal trials are conducted, there is generally a pre-trial meeting. The meeting involves decisions regarding:
- Whether you should be released on bail or not. Your criminal lawyer will play a key role in this part.
- If you are not released on bail, the prosecutor must charge you depending on the type and severity of your offence. It is a crucial step, as many offences in Singapore carry compulsory punishment.
- You will be given an opportunity for negotiations. A good criminal lawyer defence is your best bet during this time. A good lawyer may be able to get you a plea deal on lesser charges or may even get some of your charges dropped.
- You may also get an opportunity for compounding your offences. Compoundable offences are those where the complainant enters a compromise with the accused to have the charges dropped. Compounding is only allowed in minor offences in Singapore and must be consented to by the presiding judicial officer.
- You go to trial. There is no jury system in Singapore. The presiding judge’s judgement will be final in your trial.
- If convicted, you will receive a sentence.
- Your Singapore criminal lawyer would be allowed to appeal against the judge’s decision. In fact, in case of a favourable judgement, the prosecutor also has the right to appeal against the given decision. The appeal can be made only on the points of law and not by varying the facts of the case.
In criminal offence cases, it is extremely important to have good counsel sooner rather than later in the process. A good criminal lawyer with extensive experience can make or break your case.