Criminal Trials

Generally, the offences which are tried by the General Division of the High Court (“General Division”) in its original jurisdiction are the more serious offences such as murder, culpable homicide not amounting to murder, drug trafficking, arms offences, kidnapping and rape.  

The offences triable by the General Division may broadly be 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 General Division, 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”) conducted by a Registrar (“PTC Registrar”)-.

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 PTC registrar on the progress of the case. The PTC registrar will give directions to ensure that the case proceeds in a fair and expeditious manner.

After an offence is designated by the Public Prosecutor to be tried in the General Division and the case is transmitted to the High Court pursuant to section 210 of the Criminal Procedure Code  (“CPC”),  parties will attend a Criminal Case Disclosure Conference (“CCDC”) conducted by a Registrar.   CCDCs are 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 pre-trial procedures in the General Division is set out in Part X 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) The Trial 

The relevant legislation on the General Division’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 General Division, an appeal may be filed to the Court of Appeal.