Understanding Criminal Proceedings in Singapore
AspectLaw | January 14, 2022
Unless you or someone you know has committed a crime, it is unlikely that you will need the services of a criminal law firm in Singapore. Criminal law can be difficult to understand, and the proceedings that accompany it can be arduous for many. If you need a better understanding of how criminal proceedings work in Singapore, this article will provide you with all the information you need.
What is Criminal Law?
Criminal law is a set of laws that govern general criminal offences such as theft, extortion, assault and grievous hurt. In criminal law, the government, also known as the prosecution, brings charges against an accused person, regulating the arrest, charging, trial and conviction of accused persons when an offence is committed.
The Penal Code is an act that codifies the law governing criminal offences. In it, you will find information on what constitutes a criminal offence in Singapore, as well as the maximum penalties for each offence.
What Does a Criminal Lawyer Do?
Criminal lawyers are people responsible for the defending of an accused person of a criminal offence. In most cases, an accused person will engage the help of a criminal defence solicitor from a criminal law firm. The criminal defence solicitor will present their case in court, helping to ensure that the accused’s legal rights are upheld and that they are given a fair trial.
Hiring a criminal lawyer is crucial because, without the proper legal assistance, you could risk being falsely accused, convicted when innocent, or sent to prison for something you did not do.
Criminal Proceedings in Singapore
Criminal proceedings are processed and held in Court to prosecute a person charged with a crime. These proceedings may drag on for years depending on the severity and complexity of the case. It usually includes the pre-trial conference, trial of the criminal offence, the appeal proceedings and criminal revision of the criminal proceedings.
1. Initiation of Criminal Court Proceedings
Criminal proceedings against any person may be initiated by an arrest, a summons, an arrest warrant, a notice to attend court, or any other mode requesting for the attendance of the person in Court.
When a complaint is made by someone who is not an officer from a law enforcement agency, a police officer will first investigate the matter before referring the informant to a Magistrate. The Magistrate will then have to determine whether there is sufficient reason to proceed with the complaint made. If yes, the Magistrate will issue a summons, calling for the accused person to appear before a Magistrate’s court.
In the case of a police officer’s arrest, the police will first investigate the case to see if they have a reasonable suspicion that an offence has been committed. The arrested person will then be brought before the Magistrate Court within 48 hours of being arrested.
If you are charged in court or arrested for suspected criminal activity, you should contact a criminal lawyer as soon as you can for legal advice.
2. Pleading Guilty or Not Guilty
The charge(s) against the accused will be read out and explained by a court officer during the accused’s first appearance in court for a criminal proceeding. The accused may then choose to either plead guilty or not guilty.
If the accused pleads guilty, a plead guilty mention and a mitigation plea (for a lighter sentence) can be dealt with on the same day or separate day (depending on the court’s schedule). The verdict and sentence may also be decided on immediately thereafter.
If the accused pleads not guilty, the Court will usually set a date for the next pre-trial conference and the criminal case management system so that parties can discuss proceedings, disclose information, and evaluate the relative merits of their case.
3. Pre-Trial Conference
A pre-trial conference is held to keep the Court up to date on the status of the criminal proceeding. Depending on the case’s complexity, the proceeding may include several pre-trial conferences before the actual trial. A case will only proceed further depending on the status of the file during the pre-trial conference.
The accused will have to work with his or her criminal lawyer to gather evidence, witnesses and write their arguments to plead the case.
Once the parties are ready for trial, a trial will be held before a presiding judge. During the trial, the public prosecutor will first present his case by outlining it and explaining the key issues to the court. The public prosecutor will then call on his witness(es) to testify in court, during which witness(es) will be questioned by the public prosecutor.
Following that, the Defence/accused will be given the opportunity to present his or her defence, during which he or she will be able to call on his or her own witness(es) to testify. The public prosecutor will be permitted to cross-examine the witness(es) as needed.
5. Mitigation Plea Before Verdict
If the public prosecutor is successful in proving their case beyond a reasonable doubt, the judge will deliver his verdict, and the accused will be given a chance to persuade the Judge to give a lighter sentence during the mitigation plea.
The criminal case will be considered closed once the final verdict is delivered. If any of the parties believes that the judgment contains an error in law or fact, or that the sentence imposed is excessive or inadequate, they may file an appeal.
Criminal lawyers are well-versed in the complexities of criminal proceedings and the legal system, allowing them to guide you through each step of the process. Seeking legal counsel from a criminal lawyer can help you to put together a compelling case for a lighter sentence, or even an acquittal.
Aspect Law Chambers LLC is a law firm in Singapore led by an experienced team of lawyers who specialise in both family law and criminal law. Contact us today for more legal advice.
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