Public Consultation on Proposed Amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code and Evidence Act
1. The Ministry of Law is proposing amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code (“CPC”) and Evidence Act. The public is invited to provide feedback on the proposed amendments. This public consultation will run from 24 July 2017 to 24 August 2017.
2. The CPC provides the framework for criminal investigations and the procedure for criminal hearings, including trials and appeals. The Evidence Act provides the framework for all matters concerning evidence in court, including in criminal cases.
3. The CPC was repealed and replaced in 2010, significantly modernising the criminal justice framework. Since then, the Government has been monitoring and reviewing the efficacy and effectiveness of the procedures in the CPC to ensure that the administration of criminal justice continues to meet the needs of law enforcement and to serve the public well. Feedback and suggestions from all those involved in the criminal justice system, including the judiciary, the Criminal Bar, the Attorney-General’s Chambers and victim support groups, was also obtained through regular dialogues. These have shaped our thinking and deliberations.
4. This process has culminated in wide-ranging legislative amendments being proposed to the CPC and Evidence Act. These amendments affect (a) the powers of investigators, (b) court procedures and evidence, and (c) sentencing and other powers of the court. Taken together, they serve to enhance the fairness of existing procedures, and to ensure the accuracy and equity of outcomes in the criminal justice system. The amendments strengthen the law and increase protection for the vulnerable in the system while striking a fair balance between the Defence and Prosecution.
5. A full index of the proposed amendments can be found in Annex A. The details of each of these amendments can be found in Annex B. A bullet-point summary of the key amendments can be found in Annex C, and some key proposals will be highlighted below. Unless otherwise stated, the proposed amendments are to the CPC.
Enhancing the fairness of existing procedures
Introducing video recording of interviews
6. Amendments are proposed to allow statements taken by law enforcement agencies to be taken via video recording. The video recording will enable the court to take into account the interviewee’s demeanour in determining the admissibility or weight to be accorded to the interviewee’s statement by objectively showing the flow of the interview and the demeanour of the interviewer and interviewee. The amendments will set out the procedures for the use of such recordings in criminal cases, as well as safeguards to prevent their misuse (e.g. their sale on a black market).
7. Video-recorded statements can also be used to minimise the trauma faced by vulnerable victims of crime in having to recount their ordeal multiple times. For this purpose, amendments are proposed to allow the video-recorded statements of vulnerable victims, such as victims of sexual offences, to be used in place of their oral evidence-in-chief in court.
8. The implementation of video recording of interviews will be phased and adopted incrementally, starting with the recording of suspects’ statements.
9. The full details of this proposal can be found in Annex B at s/n 1.
Establishing a Criminal Procedure Rules Committee
10. Amendments are proposed to establish a Criminal Procedure Rules Committee chaired by the Chief Justice. This Committee will have the power to make court-related procedural rules to keep the court process nimble and up-to-date in the face of changing conditions.
11. The full details of this proposal can be found in Annex B at s/n 18.
Ensuring the accuracy and equity of outcomes
Strengthening the bail regime
12. Bail is an essential part of the criminal justice system. If those accused of crimes do not cooperate with investigations or do not appear in court when required, the truth cannot be discovered and justice cannot be served. More can be done to ensure that the bail system secures the attendance of suspects and accused persons. For instance, at present “jumping bail” (not complying with bail conditions) may result in the arrest of the person bailed, but it is not itself a criminal offence.
13. A number of amendments are proposed to enhance the bail regime. These include the following:
(a) Allowing electronic tagging as a possible condition of bail;
(b) Making offences concerning false evidence and offences against public justice (such as perverting the course of justice) non-bailable as such offences demonstrate contempt for the law and therefore reflect a higher risk of non-compliance with bail conditions;
(c) Requiring prospective sureties (bailors) to provide evidence that they have the means to cover the amount pledged in the bond; and
(d) Making it a criminal offence to abscond while on bail, leave jurisdiction without permission when one’s travel documents have been impounded by investigators, or to agree to indemnify a surety.
14. The full details of this proposal can be found in Annex B at s/n 9.
Enhancing protection for complainants of sexual and child abuse offences during the court process
15. Persons who complain of sexual or child abuse offences often face high degrees of stress and trauma when participating in the criminal process. In addition to the hardship they personally experience during the process, this can affect their ability to give evidence, which in turn affects the ability of the system to deliver a just outcome.
16. A number of amendments to the CPC and Evidence Act are proposed to enhance protection for such persons and minimise the trauma they face when participating in the criminal process. These include:
(a) The automatic protection of their identity from publication from the moment they report the offence;
(b) The use of physical screens in court to shield them from direct contact with the accused person;
(c) The automatic use of in camera (closed-door) hearings when they are testifying; and
(d) A general prohibition on asking them questions about their sexual history and behaviour that do not relate to the charge, including their appearance, unless the court finds that it would be manifestly unjust not to allow such questions.
17. The full details of this proposal can be found in Annex B at s/n 13.
Expanding the community sentencing regime
18. The community sentencing regime was introduced in 2010, out of a recognition that not all offences were best addressed through the traditional sentences of imprisonment and fines. Better outcomes can be achieved for certain offenders through the use of community sentences. Drawing on experience gathered since 2010, amendments are now proposed to expand, in a controlled way, the number of offenders who are eligible for community sentences. This will balance the benefits of allowing more offenders to access rehabilitative opportunities with the need to maintain deterrence for serious offences.
19. The amendments include:
(a) Allowing offenders who have previous short sentences of imprisonment or previous terms of Reformative Training to be eligible for community sentences;
(b) Expanding the range of offences that are eligible for Mandatory Treatment Orders, and enhancing the flexibility of such orders; and
(c) Allowing courts to impose a suspended imprisonment sentence together with a community sentence. Upon breach of the community sentence, this imprisonment sentence will automatically apply. This will encourage compliance with the community sentence.
20. The full details of this proposal can be found in Annex B at s/n 31.
Enhancing the victim compensation order regime
21. At present, criminal courts have the power to order compensation payments to victims when they pass sentence. In 2010, the CPC was amended to require the court to actively consider whether or not to order compensation. Amendments are now being proposed to further ease the process of victims obtaining compensation through the criminal courts.
22. These amendments include:
(a) Requiring courts to give reasons where they do not order a compensation payment to the victim;
(b) Empowering the court to order certain forms of compensation to the dependents of a victim whose death was caused by an offence; and
(c) Allowing victims to participate in the compensation order process by giving evidence and making submissions, through a lawyer or personally.
23. An internal protocol between the courts, the prosecution and the police will also be developed to standardise and simplify the fact-finding, quantification, and enforcement processes for compensation orders.
24. The full details of this proposal can be found in Annex B at s/n 32.
Invitation to give feedback
25. The public are invited to give comments and feedback on the proposed amendments to the CPC and Evidence Act from 24 July 2017 to 24 August 2017. A full index of the proposed amendments can be found in Annex A. The details of each of these amendments can be found in Annex B. A bullet-point summary of the key amendments can be found in Annex C.
26. Respondents are requested to observe these guidelines:
(a) Indicate your name and the organisation you represent (if applicable) as well as contact details (email address and/or telephone number) to enable us to follow up and seek clarification, if necessary;
(b) Focus your comments on how the proposed amendments can be made clearer, how the policy changes can be improved or whether the changes are necessary; and
(c) State clearly which specific proposals you are giving feedback on by referring to their serial number in Annex B.
27. Comments and feedback can be submitted via post or email as follows:
Legal Policy Division
Ministry of Law
100 High Street
#08-02, The Treasury
E-mail: [email protected]
28. The Ministry of Law can only consider comments and feedback that are received no later than 24 August 2017. We seek your understanding on this.