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Consider non-monetary bail conditions: MP Sylvia Lim

The ability to be released on bail is especially important if the accused intends to contest the charge, and the poor may not have the means to pay, WP chairman says in Parliament.

SINGAPORE: Member of Parliament Sylvia Lim on Wednesday (May 28) called for non-monetary bail conditions to be considered by the Courts.

Addressing the House, she said such a move would enable the needy to craft their defence more effectively, as they would be able to be released before trial.

"It is a fact that the rich and poor across the world access the criminal justice system differently ... the ability to be released on bail is important, especially if the accused intends to contest the charge. This operates against the poor, who may not have the means to be released on bail," she said.

Citing examples in countries such as the United States, Ms Lim said studies have shown that not having access to bail may result in a higher chance of conviction and heftier sentences.

This information has paved the way for reforms, she said. For instance, judges in the US now receive more information about the defendant's roots in the community, family ties and employment. Judges are also more likely to reduce or remove monetary conditions, so that defendants are released pre-trial, she added.

Closer to home, Ms Lim said residents have told her that they have difficulties bailing their loved ones out of jail due to the sum set for their bail.

"I hope the courts will look more closely at the possibility of more non-monetary bail conditions being set, so that more of the poor can obtain pre-trial release," she urged. "To this end, I have sent to the Government some research I did on this area for further study."

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