The Criminal Justice Reform and Evidence (Amendment) Bills were passed in Parliament on 19 March 2018. As stated by Indranee Rajah S.C. Minister of State for Law and Finance, these Bills build on the several changes made in the last few years to the criminal justice system.
In this article, the first of a series of 3 such articles, I will set out 3 of the more pertinent changes highlighted by way of letter from the Ministry of law Corporate Communications to Silvester Legal LLC:
1. Bail and Bonds
The Courts powers will be clarified and enhanced. For e.g.
(1) Important conditions will be imposed by default.
(2) The Court will have the discretion to withhold bail for bailable offences punishable with imprisonment, if there is evidence that the accused person would abscond.
(3) The Court will
a. Be required to stay execution of grant of bail if the Prosecution is applying for review of bail in relation to a non-bailable offence.
b. Have the discretion to stay execution of grant of bail if the Prosecution is applying for review of bail in respect of a bailable offence.
Three new offences will be created in respect of Bail and Bonds:
(1) Absconding while on Bail;
(2) Leaving jurisdiction without permission, for persons who have surrendered their travel documents; and
(3) Indemnifying sureties, or, in the case of a surety, agreeing to be indemnified.
2. Court Procedures and Evidence
Protection for complainants of sexual and child abuse offences
Measures have been introduced to reduce stress on vulnerable complainants during the court process. Some of these measures include:
(1) Complainant’s Identity cannot be published even before the complaint is lodged.
(2) Vulnerable witnesses may be allowed to testify behind a physical screen.
(3) Complainant’s testimony will be heard in closed door hearings.
(4) Leave of Court will be required to ask complainants questions about their sexual history and behaviour that does not relate to the charge.
3. Investigative Powers
Video Recording of Interviews (VRI)
Statements can be taken from suspects via video recording.
VRI is set to be implemented in phases. The first phase will cover: –
(1) Suspects investigated for rape under s 375(1)(a) of the Penal Code;
(2) Suspects with mental disabilities investigated by selected Police Divisions; and
(3) Selected non-capital drug cases investigated by the Central Narcotics Bureau.
Later phases will cover video-recorded statements of vulnerable victims (e.g. victims of serious sexual offences) to be used as evidence-in-chief in court.
I will be updating the further updates sent by way of letter from the Ministry of law Corporate Communications to Silvester Legal LLC in Parts 2 and 3 of this series.
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