Criminal Trials

Generally, the offences which are tried by the High Court in its original jurisdiction are the more serious offences such as murder, culpable homicide not amounting to murder, drug trafficking, arms offences, kidnapping, rape and carnal intercourse.

The offences triable by the High Court are classified into capital (i.e. punishable by death) and non-capital offences. Where an accused is charged with a capital offence, he will be eligible to be assigned counsel under the Legal Assistance Scheme for Capital Offences (“LASCO”) to defend him if he cannot afford to engage his own lawyer. In such a case, two lawyers (one main counsel and one assisting counsel) will be assigned to defend the accused, and the lawyers’ fees will be borne by the State. Where an accused is charged with a non-capital offence, he may apply for legal assistance under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme (“CLAS”) run by the Law Society of Singapore. For more information on CLAS, please refer to the Law Society’s website.

 

(a) Pre-Trial Conferences and Criminal Case Disclosure Conferences

Once an accused is charged with an offence triable by the High Court, or when a case is designated by the Public Prosecutor to be tried in the High Court pursuant to section 210 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Chapter 68, Revised Edition 2012) (“CPC”), the Court actively monitors the progress of the investigations carried out and other steps taken by the prosecution in preparation for the trial for each case. Such monitoring is done by way of pre-trial conferences (“PTCs”).

Criminal PTCs are attended by Deputy Public Prosecutors (“DPP”), and the defence counsel (if any) representing the accused person(s). At each PTC, both the DPP and the defence counsel will update the Registrar of the Supreme Court on the progress of the case. The Registrar will give directions to ensure that the case proceeds in a fair and expeditious manner.

When a case is ready to proceed for trial, a Criminal Case Disclosure Conference (“CCDC”) will be convened to settle the following matters:

  1. the charge(s) that the prosecution intends to proceed with;
  2. whether the accused intends to plead guilty or claim trial to the charge(s);
  3. where applicable, the date for the holding of a committal hearing;
  4. the filing of the Case for the Prosecution and, where applicable, the Case for the Defence and Prosecution’s supplementary bundle; and
  5. fixing of hearing or trial date(s).

The relevant legislation relating to CCDCs is set out in sections 176 and 212 of the CPC.

Criminal PTCs and CCDCs are conducted in the Supreme Court weekly. They are held in chambers and are not open to the public.

 

(b) Committal Hearings

Committal Hearings (previously known as a “Preliminary Inquiries”) are held to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to commit the accused for trial in the High Court, unless the case has been designated by the Public Prosecutor to be tried in the High Court (see below, under the  heading “Transmission Proceedings”). The relevant legislation relating to Committal Hearings is set out in sections 176 to 198 of the CPC.

At the first CCDC, the Registrar will fix a date for a Committal Hearing to be conducted.  Since March 1995, Preliminary Inquiries/Committal Hearings have been conducted by Assistant Registrars of the Supreme Court, who are concurrently appointed as Magistrates of the State Courts. The public may attend Committal Hearings, which are held in open court, except for those which are held in camera.

 

(c) Transmission Proceedings

The Public Prosecutor shall designate the High Court to try an offence specified in the Third Schedule (namely, the offences under sections 375 to 377B of the Penal Code (Chapter 224)) by fiat in writing. There will be no Committal Hearing conducted for such cases.

The relevant legislation relating to Transmission Proceedings is set out in sections 210 to 212 of the CPC.

 

(d) The Trial

If the accused is committed for trial in the High Court after a Committal Hearing or after his case has been transmitted, he will be remanded in prison pending trial. Bail is available only at the discretion of the High Court.

The relevant legislation on the High Court’s original jurisdiction in criminal trials and the mode of conducting such trials are set out in section 15 of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Cap 322) and section 230 of the CPC respectively. Trials which are held in open court may be attended by the public.

If the accused or the Public Prosecutor is dissatisfied with the decision made by the High Court, an appeal may be filed to the Court of Appeal.

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