Changes to criminal justice process will deliver objective and reliable evidence
Proposed changes to criminal justice process, especially video statements, welcomed by law professor, lawyers and Aware
The proposed changes to improve the criminal justice process have been embraced by law academics, lawyers and advocacy groups, in particular video interviews of suspects and witnesses, and the protection of vulnerable victims.
Calling the proposed introduction of video-recorded statements a "positive development", National University of Singapore law professor Kumaralingam Amirthalingam said: "It will go some way to protecting accused persons from giving statements under potential threat, inducement or pressure; and also protects investigation officers from being accused of putting improper pressure.
"The video recordings should also help judges evaluate the evidence better, as they will be able to see the reactions of the parties and the context of the elicited testimony."
Mr Sui Yi Siong, an associate lawyer, said the videos will provide objective evidence of what accused persons, suspects or witnesses had said.
"It is always good to have objective evidence because it is easier to verify any kind of allegations, for instance whether they were threatened or not," he added.
Prof Kumaralingam added: "These proposed amendments are significant as they affect the rights and liberties of individuals, while safeguarding law and order.
"The public consultation process will be vital to help strike the right balance."
Lawyers and advocacy groups also told The Straits Times that protecting vulnerable victims can encourage more to come forward and minimise further damage to them.
Further, taping a victim's interview provides a more reliable method of documentation than written notes. In other words, it provides the 'best record' of the interview.Ms Corinna Lim, executive director of the Association of Women for Action and Research
Criminal lawyer Hamidul Haq said the automatic issuing of gag orders and in-camera hearing will give victims greater confidence in reporting a crime.
Currently, "gag orders need to be applied for in court and before this can be done, there may be a risk of the information going public", said Mr Haq, a partner at Rajah & Tann Singapore.
He added that social media, in particular, has made it easier to track a person down and may be a platform for "many nasty reactions", causing embarrassment to the victim.
Association of Women for Action and Research's (Aware) executive director Corinna Lim told ST that the recovery process for survivors of sexual assault can be adversely affected if they have to recount their experiences multiple times.
This can be minimised with video-recorded statements.
Said Ms Lim: "Further, taping a victim's interview provides a more reliable method of documentation than written notes. In other words, it provides the 'best record' of the interview."
However, she said there is a chance that victims can get confused or block out parts of the incident while giving the video-recorded statement.
A possible option would be for judges to be trained to properly understand victims' behaviour and psychology before the scheme begins, she said.