SINGAPORE: A new Bill tabled in Parliament on Monday (Mar 7) has proposed a slew of changes to Singapore’s extradition laws, including on how to determine if an offence makes someone liable to extradition.
The proposed changes to the Extradition Act would “update and modernise” Singapore’s extradition regime and align it with other jurisdictions, said the Ministry of Law (MinLaw).
“A modernised regime will strengthen our ability to facilitate extradition where justified, secure the return of fugitives who have committed an offence to Singapore, and ensure appropriate use of limited State resources for extradition,” it added.
Since 2012, four people have been successfully extradited back to Singapore, and eight to a requesting State – including David Roach, a Standard Chartered Bank robber who was extradited from the United Kingdom.
One key change proposed by the Bill is for the law to take a “threshold approach” in deciding whether an offence is extraditable. With this approach, an offence will be extraditable if it leads to a maximum punishment of more than two years’ jail, except for certain excluded offences.
This would replace the current “list approach”, where generally only offences listed in the First Schedule to the Act are extraditable.
The move would bring Singapore in line with jurisdictions such as Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, said the ministry.
MORE RESTRICTIONS ON SURRENDERING FUGITIVES
The Bill also proposed more restrictions on surrendering a requested fugitive.
This includes in cases where the fugitive only has a short imprisonment term remaining – generally deemed as less than six months. This is to avoid situations “where it is not practical” to proceed with the extradition, as the process may take longer than the fugitive’s remaining imprisonment term, said MinLaw.
It also covers cases where the fugitive was convicted in his or her absence, or when the prosecution is for military offences.
Another restriction is when the fugitive cannot be prosecuted in the other jurisdiction, owing to the limitation period – or the timeframe in which legal action can be brought.
“The wider range of restrictions on surrender is aligned with international practice and is commonly found in modern extradition treaties,” said MinLaw.
The Bill also aims to simplify the procedure for admitting evidence to justify a fugitive’s extradition.
Currently, to decide if a fugitive should be extradited, the court must consider if there is enough evidence that warrants this. This evidence is usually presented by way of affidavits, but these can “often be voluminous”, said MinLaw.
Instead, it aims to introduce a mechanism where a record of the case will summarise the evidence gathered by the state or territory that is requesting the extradition. It must be certified by a judicial or prosecuting authority from their side.
But the court “retains discretion in determining the weight to be given to the evidence” admitted through this mechanism, said MinLaw.
In addition, the changes will centralise review procedures. It incorporates the fugitive’s right to apply to the High Court for a review of detention into the Act, and will also allow the Attorney-General to similarly apply for a review of the Magistrate’s decision not to commit a fugitive.
In line with international practices, another proposed change is a new mechanism for a fugitive to consent to his or her extradition, and to waive the extradition proceedings.
“This would save State resources and prevent the fugitive from being detained longer than necessary in Singapore,” said MinLaw.
It added that there will be safeguards, such as a Magistrate having to inform the fugitive of the consequences of consent, and ascertaining that the consent is voluntary.
On top of that, the change will collate extradition offences arising from Singapore’s obligations under other multilateral conventions, outlined in statutes such as the Terrorism (Suppression of Financing) Act 2002 and Terrorism (Suppression of Bombings) Act 2007.
The Bill will insert the new Fourth Schedule to the Extradition Act, covering these offences.
Finally, the Bill aims to consolidate the Act’s two separate extradition frameworks for foreign states and declared Commonwealth territories, as the processes for both are largely similar.