- POSTED: 16 Jan 2014 12:49
- UPDATED: 17 Jan 2014 00:21
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A committee tasked to review homicide laws in Singapore and the extent to which mentally-disabled offenders should be punished differently, will submit its recommendations to the government in the next few months.
SINGAPORE: A committee tasked to review homicide laws in Singapore and the extent to which mentally-disabled offenders should be punished differently, will submit its recommendations to the government in the next few months.
The committee was formed in the first quarter of 2013.
Law Minister K Shanmugam gave the update at the Criminal Law Conference on Thursday.
Some of the issues the committee have been looking into are reviewing the definition of murder and dealing with deaths caused in the course of violent group crime.
Mr Shanmugam said: "There are some discussions as to whether and how you should look at the murder committed in the course of rape, violent sexual offences and offences against very young people who are unable to protect themselves who get killed.
“We've had a few fairly bad cases in the last few years. The committee is looking into that as well, as to whether to treat that as a further aggravated condition."
The 18-person committee, chaired by Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah, is made up largely of judges and lawyers.
Separately, a formalised framework of negotiations -- or plea bargaining -- between prosecutors and defence lawyers, is being studied by the Law Ministry and the Attorney-General's Chambers to encourage early case resolution.
Mr Shanmugam said this will also allow the pre-trial litigation process to be more transparent.
Shashi Nathan, partner, Criminal Litigation at KhattarWong, said: “We have many opportunities for the prosecution and defence to meet, to discuss and negotiate, and do a plea bargain.
“But I think with a formalised process, the advantage would be that this gets done much earlier, sometimes at the charge stage, or even before an accused person is charged.
“Certainly for the accused, if the matter is resolved early, there's some certainty about what he's going to do, and doesn't have a charge hanging over his head or have the prospect of going for trial. "
Mr Shanmugam also highlighted several major reforms and improvements made, which he said have collectively strengthened the entire criminal justice framework.
The measures include giving the courts greater discretion in determining punishment in capital cases, improving access to justice for accused persons, and boosting efforts to rehabilitate offenders.
Mr Shanmugam said: "I set out the four fundamental principles which underpin our approach to the criminal justice system.
"They may be encapsulated in four phrases -- protect society, do due process, effective law enforcement and rehabilitation and reformation. Everything we have done, everything we will do, will reflect and take off from these touch points."
The minister added that the changes in the different fields point to a "decisive change" in the criminal justice system.