CRIMINAL LAW LIGITATION
HOME / OUR PRACTICE / CRIMINAL LAW
CRIMINAL LAW LIGITATION
Scope of Work
Comprehensive and Personalized Legal Advice on the Law
Liaison with the Police
Making Representations to the Attorney-General’s Chambers for the Withdrawal or Reduction of Charges
Interviewing Witnesses and Collation of Evidence for Trial
Preparation and Submission of Mitigation Pleas
Areas of Criminal Law
- Offences against public tranquillity such as affray and unlawful assembly
- Offences by or relating to public servants
- False evidence and offences against public justice such as giving false evidence and making false statements
- Offences affecting life such as murder and manslaughter
- Offences affecting the human body such as rape, outrage of modesty, causing grievous hurt, using criminal force and assault
- Offences against property such as vandalism, theft, robbery, criminal breach of trust, cheating, forgery and corruption
- Offences under the Misuse of Drugs Act
- Immigration offences such as harbouring or employing illegal immigrants
- Offences under the Films Act
- Offences relating to computer crimes
- Registry of Companies and Businesses offences
- Traffic offences
Frequently Asked Questions
A charge sets out the details of the allegations against you to notify you of the case which you must defend against. Minimally, the charge should state the legal provision you are accused of breaching, details of the date, time and place of the alleged offence, and the person or thing which the offence was committed against.
For an offence to be committed, every element of the offence must be present. You would not have committed an offence where one or more elements of the offence is missing.
Generally, the elements in offences can be categorised as relating to the actus reus (i.e. the wrongful acts) and the mens rea (i.e. the intention to commit an offence).
It is possible for a single set of facts to satisfy the elements of several offences with varying degrees of gravity. In such a case, the Prosecution has the discretion to choose which offence to charge the accused with. For example, the parties in a “gang-fight” may be charged with unlawful assembly, rioting, or rioting with a deadly weapon, etc.
Even where all the elements of an offence are satisfied, you are entitled to present defences such as self-defence, mistake, accident, unsoundness of mind, etc.
The police will conduct investigations and gather evidence before making a recommendation to the AG’s Chambers as to whether to prosecute you.
During this period, the police will record statements from the complainant, the suspect or accused, everyone involved in the matter, and all witnesses.
Everything you say can and will be used against you.
Your silence also can and will be used against you.
Explain yourself as accurately as possible. Do not settle for words to be put in your mouth as these words can and will be used against you.
You have no right to retain a copy of your police statement.
You will be kept in the dark about the progress of police investigation.
The period between your police statement and your being told whether you will be charged in Court ranges from three to twelve months.
Compounding an offence is where criminal proceedings are terminated in lieu of monetary compensation to the complainant.
The Fourth Schedule of the Criminal Procedure Code provides a list of offences which can be compounded and who may compound them.
If your offence is compoundable, you will need to seek the consent of the complainant, the AG’s Chambers, and the Court if you have already been charged in Court.
The AG’s Chambers would typically require you to admit to the offence before they consent to the offence being compounded. If you are not agreeable to admitting to the offence, it would be very unlikely that the AG’s Chambers would consent to the offence being compounded.
Unlike where an accused pleads guilty or is convicted of an offence, there will be no criminal record following the composition of an offence.
At any point during criminal proceedings (from the time before a charge is tendered up till the passing of a sentence), representations may be made to the police and AG’s Chambers. Representations typically seek to persuade the police and AG’s Chambers to agree to a certain course of action, including compounding the offence, issuing a warning in lieu of prosecution, withdrawing the charge, amending the charge, taking charges into consideration (TIC), or proposing a lower sentence, etc.
Pleading guilty may be recognised by the Courts as a sign of remorse and a lower sentence may be passed in recognition of the savings in prosecutorial and judicial resources. Pleading guilty can be done at any point in the proceedings – from when the charge is first laid to even after trial has commenced.
Plea bargaining is when your defence counsel negotiates with the AG’s Chambers for a lesser charge or lower proposed sentence in the event that you plead guilty.
The prescribed range of punishments include a fine, imprisonment, caning, and the death penalty. Some offences carry a minimum imprisonment term, mandatory caning or a mandatory death penalty.
In certain situations, community sentences which focus on rehabilitation rather than punishment may be ordered – these include amongst others, probation, community work orders, short detention orders and mandatory treatment orders.
After you are convicted of an offence, the Court will hear the Prosecution’s submissions on sentencing as well as your plea in mitigation before meting out your sentence.
Mitigating factors are facts which lessen your culpability of the offence, lessen the harm caused by the offence, or show why a certain sentence would be disproportionate to the offence. Common mitigating factors include young age, being a first-time offender, making an early plea of guilt, making voluntary restitution, having rehabilitative potential, and in exceptional circumstances, being in poor health.
The police will usually not inform your family, relatives and friends of your case unless they are required to assist in the investigations.
However, once you are charged in Court, information on your case is treated as being in the public domain and the newspapers will be entitled to report on it.
In circumstances where a vulnerable victim would suffer harm from their identity being revealed, any reports of the case may not reveal your identity if that is necessary to protect the victim’s identity.
Being convicted of certain offences may disqualify you from certain positions, professions or industries. For example, you will be disqualified from being a director of any company in Singapore upon conviction for an offence involving fraud or dishonesty punishable with imprisonment for 3 months.
Even without a conviction, just being investigated for an offence may severely affect your reputation.
There are many “damage control” measures that can be employed depending on your specific circumstances. If it is inevitable that your case is going to be reported in the media, your measured cooperation with the media will minimize the damage to your reputation and may even cast you in a sympathetic light.
The police is empowered to retain your travel documents if you are under investigation. It is an offence to leave Singapore after surrendering your travel documents.
Should you need to leave the country during this period, you may request the return of your travel documents from the police, failing which you may make an application to the Court.
The purpose of a criminal trial is to enable a judge to assess the credibility of the complainant, the accused, and all the witnesses.
During the trial, you will have the opportunity to tell your side of the story, and you will be cross examined thoroughly by the Prosecutor.
Any admissions or concessions you make in Court may be used to convict you. Conversely, refusing to give evidence or being uncooperative may result in the judge drawing an adverse inference against you. If the judge finds that your evidence is incoherent or unreliable, your credibility may be impeached – meaning your evidence is less likely to be believed.
Even criminal lawyers who get into trouble with the law engage another criminal lawyer!
The prosecution relies on three types of evidence to secure the conviction of an accused – eye witnesses, physical evidence, and/or accused’s confessions. This spells the importance of the accused’s police statements – remember that anything you say can and will be used against you.
Bad English, wrong choice of words, poor translations, unfortunate paraphrasing, whether by you or the police officer, will all be used against you.
Brave or foolish is he who chooses not to consult a lawyer before giving his statement to the police.
Contrary to Hollywood and Hong Kong movies, you have no right to a lawyer during police interviews.
Contrary to the saying, ignorance is not bliss and as another saying goes, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
Are you wasting precious time in blissful ignorance when you could be consulting a lawyer to “damage control” the situation?
Are you worrying about any of the above issues unnecessarily? Information is the key to peace of mind. The earlier you seek legal advice, the more time you and your lawyer would have to deal with the problem.
Between your suspicion that you may be in trouble with the law and your being hauled to the police station, don’t waste precious time – seek legal advice as soon as possible.