Video statements, closed-door hearings among law changes mooted to protect victims

Video statements, closed-door hearings among law changes mooted to protect victims

The amendments aim to enhance the fairness of court procedures and the accuracy of outcomes in the criminal justice system, says the Ministry of Law.

File photo of Supreme Court 2
File photo of the Supreme Court entrance. 

SINGAPORE: Video recording of interviews during police investigations may soon be allowed, as part of proposed amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) and Evidence Act.

A public consultation was launched on Monday (Jul 24) to get feedback on the wide-ranging changes, which are meant to enhance the fairness of court procedures and the accuracy of outcomes in the criminal justice system, said the Ministry of Law.

Under the proposed amendments, law enforcement agencies will be able to use video recording to take statements from suspects, witnesses and vulnerable victims such as victims of serious sexual offences. 

Currently, only a written statement of the interview can be submitted as evidence in court.

A video recording, however, will enable the court to quickly determine how voluntary the statements given were and the weight they should be accorded, said the Law Ministry. It will also help minimise the trauma vulnerable victims face in having to repeatedly recount their ordeal.

Sexual and child abuse victims will also get more protection through the automatic use of closed-door hearings when they are testifying, as well as physical screens to shield them from the accused, it added.

With psychiatric expert evidence becoming increasingly common in criminal proceedings, the ministry is also proposing to regulate those who are allowed to give such evidence to ensure objectivity and competence.

The qualifications and other criteria needed for psychiatrists to be admitted to the court-administered panel will be specified by the law, said the ministry. 

INCREASE NUMBER OF OFFENDERS ELIGIBLE FOR COMMUNITY SENTENCES

The ministry also proposed expanding the number of offenders who are eligible for community sentences, to allow more to "benefit from rehabilitative opportunities."

In addition, more offences will be eligible for Mandatory Treatment Orders, which require the offender to undergo treatment for mental health conditions.

Community-based sentencing was introduced in 2010 when the old CPC was repealed and replaced. The last amendments to the Evidence Act, meanwhile, were made in 2012. 

Other proposed changes include making it easier for victims to get compensation through the criminal courts. Where the court does not order a compensation payment, it will be required to provide its reasons. 

The court will also be empowered to order certain forms of compensation to the dependents of a victim whose death was caused by an offence, said the Law Ministry. 

Members of the public are invited to give feedback until Aug 24 this year. 

Source: CNA/hs

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