Criminal Procedure (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2024
10 January 2024 Posted in Press releases
- The Ministry of Law (“MinLaw”) and the Ministry of Home Affairs (“MHA”) introduced the Criminal Procedure (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2024 for First Reading in Parliament today. The Bill advances our criminal justice system and contains significant proposals aimed at: (A) protecting the public by strengthening our levers to tackle crime, including serious sexual crime, and (B) enhancing transparency, fairness and coherence in our criminal court processes.
- The Criminal Procedure Code (“CPC”) is the key legislation governing our criminal justice process. It covers arrests, investigations, trials and appeals, and sentencing matters, among others.
- The Government regularly reviews our criminal justice laws, including the CPC, to ensure that they are up-to-date and fit for purpose. The last major amendment of the CPC was in 2018 via the Criminal Justice Reform Act 2018 (“CJRA”)1. The CPC was further amended in 2019 to improve and refine the laws introduced or amended by the CJRA.2
4.The key features of the Bill are as follows (refer to the Factsheet in the Annex for more information on the proposals):
(A) Protecting the public by strengthening our levers to tackle crime, including serious sexual crime
Updating and enhancing the powers of police and other law enforcement agencies (“LEAs”)
5.First, the Bill proposes to update and enhance the powers of the Police and other LEAs, including their powers of arrest, search and investigation. This will better equip the LEAs to combat crime and result in greater operational efficiency. For example:
(a) The amendments will allow the Police to conduct a search without warrant when they have reason to believe that the relevant evidence is in the possession or power of a suspect of an arrestable offence.
(i) Currently, a search without warrant can be conducted if a Police officer has reason to believe that a person will not, or is unlikely to, produce the relevant evidence when subject to a production order.
(ii) However, it is not straightforward to accurately determine at the outset that a person will not, or is unlikely to, comply with a production order. This can allow uncooperative suspects to hamper investigations by causing delays in searches and tampering with evidence.
(b) The Police will be empowered to search arrested persons at the point of arrest, to remove dangerous items held by suspects, such as razor blades and needles.
(c) The amendments will also expand the powers of certain non-Police LEAs (such as the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority and the Central Narcotics Bureau) to deal with matters arising from predicate offences under their purview. For example, to rearrest persons who have escaped from their lawful custody and the lawful custody of other LEAs, and to investigate bail and absconding offences. This allows the LEA that is most familiar with the details of the case to conduct the necessary arrests or investigations.
New legislative framework on forensic medical examinations (“FME”)
- The Bill also proposes to set out a clear legislative framework on FME, which will provide clarity and allow more effective criminal investigations.
- FME is conducted to obtain forensic evidence (e.g. taking blood samples or DNA swabs), which is critical for investigations, particularly those pertaining to serious sexual offences such as rape.
(a) FME evidence is an important modern tool for bringing criminals to justice (see Annex for examples).
(b) There are no substitutes for certain specific types of FME. For example, penile swabs need to be taken from accused persons in sexual assault cases to show proof of contact.
(c) FME is time-sensitive as certain types of forensic evidence (e.g. DNA evidence) may be lost, degraded or contaminated over a short time.
- The legislative framework will provide the Police with the power to require accused persons to undergo FME where it is relevant to the investigation of an offence that is reasonably suspected to have been committed. To ensure that accused persons comply with investigations, it will be an offence if an accused person required to undergo FME refuses to do so without reasonable excuse. The court may also draw negative inferences in such cases, if there is a trial.
- Safeguards will be put in place to ensure that FME are conducted appropriately, and that persons subject to FME are treated sensitively. For example, the person conducting the FME must be satisfied that the FME will not endanger the subject, before carrying out the FME, and only qualified medical professionals (i.e. doctors and nurses) will be allowed to conduct physical medical examinations and invasive medical procedures (e.g. drawing of blood).
New sentences for public protection
- Second, the Bill seeks to better protect the public from dangerous offenders by introducing a Sentence for Enhanced Public Protection (“SEPP”).
- We have seen egregious cases involving dangerous offenders. These include serial sex offenders who preyed on children, as well recalcitrant offenders who committed serious sexual or violent offences after being released from prison:
|Rape and sexual assault of six boys (2023)
|In September 2023, an offender was sentenced to 40 years’ imprisonment and 24 strokes of the cane for raping and sexually assaulting six boys. The offender had preyed on boys he met in the neighbourhood and on underaged relatives. He raped his cousin’s sons, performed sex acts on one of them in front of his stepbrother, and made both boys carry out sex acts on each other.
The Prosecution described this as one of the “worst cases of paedophilic sexual abuse”. An IMH report found that he had a paedophilic disorder and presented a “clear danger to young boys”.
|Sexual abuse of eight children committed over 16 years (2022)
|In June 2022, an offender was sentenced to 45 years’ imprisonment for sexually abusing eight children with learning or physical disabilities after offering to tutor them.
He pleaded guilty to six charges of aggravated rape committed against three of the victims over a period of 16 years, from 2002 to 2018. Two of these victims were five years old when they were raped, while the third was eight years old. The offender also recorded videos of the numerous attacks.
He also had 80 other charges taken into consideration during sentencing, which included various sexual offences committed against the eight children when they were between the ages of 5 and 13.
The accused was diagnosed with paedophilic disorder and was assessed to be at “very high risk of repeated sexual offending against young female victims”.
|Sexual assault of stepdaughter 2 years after being released from prison for rape (2020)
|In 2001, an offender was sentenced to 24 years’ jail and 24 strokes of the cane for raping his 11-year-old niece.
Within two years of his release, he sexually assaulted his 12-year-old stepdaughter. In June 2020, he was given the maximum 20 years’ PD.
- The Government has been looking at ways to better protect the public from such dangerous offenders, who pose a substantial risk of serious physical and/or sexual harm to others, especially to those in our society who are vulnerable. We want to ensure that such dangerous and high-risk offenders are not released back into the community until they no longer pose a threat to public safety.
- Our current sentencing options are inadequate to deal with such egregious offending. For offences that do not attract life imprisonment, the available sentencing options all presently require an offender to be released automatically after a certain point, regardless of the threat they pose to others.
- The proposed new SEPP is intended to enhance the protections we have in place against dangerous offenders:
(a) An offender sentenced to SEPP will not be automatically released at any point but will only be released if found suitable. If sentenced to SEPP, the offender will be detained for a minimum term of between 5 and 20 years (as determined by the court). At the end of the minimum term, the offender will only be released if assessed by the Minister of Home Affairs to no longer pose a threat to the public, instead of being automatically released. This is unlike an imprisonment sentence or corrective training/preventive detention where the offender must be released after serving the sentence imposed by the court.
(i) If found not suitable for release, the offender may continue to be detained up to life. However, there will be regular reviews to assess his or her suitability for release.
(ii) If found suitable for release, the offender will be released on license and subject to certain conditions. The offender may be unconditionally discharged thereafter, if appropriate.
(b) As SEPP is a severe sentence, it will be limited to offenders who have been convicted of serious violent or sexual offences such as culpable homicide, rape and sexual penetration of minors. It will also only apply to offenders aged 21 and above at the time of the offence.
(c) Safeguards will be put in place to ensure that the sentence is fair.
(i) It is the court which will decide whether SEPP is appropriate, generally after considering risk assessment reports by IMH and (if additional reports are submitted) other experts.
(ii) As noted above, if an offender is not released on license, there will be regular reviews to assess his or her suitability for release. Once released on license, there will also be regular reviews to consider whether the offender should be unconditionally released and the sentence brought to an end.
(B) Enhancing transparency, fairness and coherence in our criminal court processes
Amendments on criminal disclosure
- Third, the Bill introduces amendments to the disclosure regime in criminal proceedings.
- In 2010, we introduced a statutory pre-trial disclosure regime (known as the Criminal Case Disclosure (“CCD”) regime), under which the Prosecution and the Defence sequentially disclose and exchange information about their cases before trial. Since 2011, a common law disclosure regime has developed in parallel through case law. We reviewed these developments carefully, in close consultation with representatives from the Defence Bar and the Attorney-General’s Chambers.
- For greater clarity, certainty and coherence, we propose to place the common law disclosure obligations on a statutory footing by codifying, clarifying or modifying aspects of these obligations.
- We will also fine-tune aspects of the statutory regime, including requiring compulsory participation in the CCD process for a wider category of cases. This facilitates greater pre-trial disclosure and transparency, which will in turn lead to more efficient trials and more just outcomes.
- These amendments reflect our commitment to ensuring transparency and fairness in criminal proceedings.
Other improvements to our criminal court processes
- Other amendments are aimed at promoting greater efficiency and fairness in criminal proceedings.
- For example, the Courts will be empowered to allow accused persons facing relatively minor charges to be released on personal bond, as an alternative to bail. This will enable more accused persons to be released before trial – currently, such persons will be remanded if they are offered bail but cannot find a bailor.
- In preparing the Bill, MinLaw and MHA consulted various stakeholders, including criminal practitioners and members of the Law Society of Singapore, legal academics and members of the public. A public consultation exercise was also conducted on REACH in 2021 on the introduction of sentences for public protection and the overall feedback was that the proposed changes are beneficial to our criminal justice system. We would like to thank them for their views and feedback, which have been substantially incorporated in the Bill.
1. Amendments were made in respect of: (a) investigative processes; (b) court procedure; and (c) sentencing powers of the court. For more information, please refer to the Press Release and 2R Speech.↩
MINISTRY OF LAW
MINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS
10 JANUARY 2024
Last updated on 10 January 2024