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Friday, February 23, 2024
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GOVT PROPOSES BILL TO LET S’PORE POLICE CONDUCT SEARCHES WITHOUT A WARRANT

Singapore’s Ministry of Law (MinLaw) and Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) have presented the Criminal Procedure (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2024 to Parliament for its First Reading, according to a Press Release issued by the Ministry of Law and Ministry of Home Affairs.

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This significant legislative proposal aims to enhance various aspects of Singapore’s criminal justice system, focusing on protecting the public from crime, especially serious sexual offenses, and improving transparency, fairness, and coherence in criminal court processes.

Background

The Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) serves as the primary legislation governing Singapore’s criminal justice process, covering arrests, investigations, trials, appeals, and sentencing matters. Regular reviews, the most recent being the Criminal Justice Reform Act 2018 (CJRA), ensure that the laws remain current and fit for purpose.

Key Amendments

(A) Protecting the Public by Strengthening Law Enforcement Powers

  1. Enhanced Powers for Police and Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs):
    • The Bill proposes updating and enhancing powers, including arrest, search, and investigation, to equip LEAs better.
    • Notably, police will have the authority to conduct a search without a warrant in cases where evidence is believed to be in a suspect’s possession, streamlining the investigative process.
  2. Legislative Framework for Forensic Medical Examinations (FME):
    • A new framework for FME is introduced to provide clarity and effectiveness in criminal investigations, especially those related to serious sexual offenses like rape.
    • Police will have the power to require accused persons to undergo FME relevant to the investigation, with refusal being an offense. Safeguards ensure appropriate conduct, and only qualified medical professionals will conduct invasive procedures.
  3. Sentences for Enhanced Public Protection (SEPP):
    • In response to egregious cases involving dangerous offenders, SEPP is introduced.
    • Offenders convicted of serious violent offenses, aged 21 and above at the time of the offense, may be sentenced to SEPP, ensuring they are not automatically released but evaluated for public safety.

(B) Enhancing Transparency, Fairness, and Coherence

  1. Amendments on Criminal Disclosure:
    • The bill introduces amendments to the disclosure regime, placing common law disclosure obligations on a statutory footing.
    • Compulsory participation in the Criminal Case Disclosure (CCD) process for a wider category of cases is proposed, promoting transparency and efficiency in trials.
  2. Other Improvements to Criminal Court Processes:
    • The Courts will be empowered to allow accused persons facing minor charges to be released on personal bond, enhancing fairness and efficiency.

Stakeholder Engagement

MinLaw and MHA engaged various stakeholders, including criminal practitioners, the Law Society of Singapore, legal academics, and the public, incorporating substantial feedback into the bill. A public consultation exercise on REACH in 2021 supported the proposed changes as beneficial to Singapore’s criminal justice system.

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