Proposed changes to protect child, sex crime victims
Victim protection, video interviews of suspects among proposed changes to criminal process
Victims of sex crimes and child abuse could soon get better protection during court proceedings to minimise their trauma.
And in a first for Singapore, criminal investigators could soon record statements from suspects and witnesses on video.
Also, more offenders could be given community sentences instead of jail time to help them get rehabilitated.
These are just three of 50 changes proposed by the Ministry of Law (MinLaw) in a sweeping review of the Criminal Procedure Code and Evidence Act.
MinLaw said yesterday it hopes to implement the changes by the end of the year. The public has until Aug 24 to give feedback on the proposed changes.
"The proposed amendments... seek to enhance the fairness of existing procedures and ensure the accuracy and equity of outcomes in the criminal justice system," said MinLaw.
AUTO GAG ORDER
To prevent victims of sex crimes or child abuse from being identified, a gag order will apply to them as soon as a police report is made.
Currently, a gag order only kicks in when the case goes before the court, and an application is made.
Closed-door hearings during trials will also be automatic, unless the victims opt to testify in open court.
Vulnerable victims and witnesses will also be allowed to testify from behind a physical screen in court. This will prevent accused persons from seeing them, hence sparing them from further trauma.
In serious sex crimes, video-recorded statements can be used in place of oral testimony.
Lawyers will also not be allowed to ask victims about their sexual history or activities, including their appearance or behaviour, unless granted permission by the court.
Last August, lawyer Edmund Wong Sin Yee was rapped by a district judge for his line of questioning focusing on the victim's appearance during an outrage of modesty trial. The Attorney-General's Chambers later filed a disciplinary complaint against him to the Law Society.
Currently, only written statements of interviews can be submitted as evidence in court.
The changes will allow investigators to take statements from suspects and witnesses in video recordings.
Victims of sexual crimes may be allowed to video record their testimony instead of having to relive their ordeal in court.
Video interviews will be made compulsory for suspects in such crimes to give the court a sense of their demeanour and to gauge whether the statements were made voluntarily.
Safeguards will be put in place to prevent the misuse of these videos.
The videos can be viewed only at an approved place, such as a police station, and unauthorised use, copying and distribution of the videos will be an offence.
The Government plans to expand - in a controlled way - the number of offenders eligible for community sentences, such as community service, work orders, mandatory treatment orders (MTOs) and day reporting orders.
This will allow more offenders to benefit from rehabilitative opportunities. Those with previous short jail terms or Reformative Training will be eligible for community sentences.
More offences would be eligible for MTOs and the flexibility of such orders will be enhanced.
The courts could impose a suspended jail term together with a community sentence, to take effect once the latter is breached.Then Attorney-General V.K. Rajah last year called for all possible sentencing options to be considered for less serious crimes, citing that community sentences were an "under-utilised" option.
Feedback can be submitted to the Legal Policy Division at MinLaw or e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org