18 September 2005

All in Good Time

Someone complained on his blog that there's just no transparency and that the government is hiding the details of the sedition cases from the Singapore public. However, the trial has not even begin yet. So I commented on hios blog as follows:

Actually, full details of the cases will be revealed in open court when the time comes for the accused to take his plea (ie either plead guilty or claim trial).

The law mandates this. Any member of the public can walk into court and witness the proceedings for himself. You can too. The media can report as much of the case as they feel like.

Even if the accused chooses to plead guilty, the DPP is required to submit a Statement of Facts (which he will read out in court) stating all the facts of the case. As the content of the messages is directly related to the elements of the charge, he will also have to read out what the accused said on his blog.

After the proceeding, DPPs normally are quite happy to give a copy of the Statement of Facts to any journalist who asks for it. Also, any member of the public can get the records of the criminal proceedings at any time by going to the Crime Registry at the Sub Courts and paying the admin fees.

For actual trials, the dates of hearing of all cases are typically posted on the notice boards around the Subordinate Courts, and typically you can find the dates available online at the Sub Courts website too.
See also my earlier post about the criminal process.

99.9% of criminal proceedings are conducted in open court. It is a basic principle of law in Singapore. Any member of the public is free to walk and witness them (and seats are provided). This is how journalists get their stories about court cases - they simply walk in and sit down and listen and take notes.

Very occasionally, part of a criminal case may be "in camera" - which is the legal way to say that they are closed, for special reasons, from the public.

For example, I once handled a case involving forged bank notes. I had an expert witness, a scientist, explain the process of how counterfeit notes are manufactured, and how they can be detected. For this part of the trial only, I asked the public to be barred, and the judge agreed.

The reason is that we do not want the knowledge of how to make counterfeit notes to become public. We also do not want counterfeiters to know about the kind of methods and technologies which the authorities use to detect counterfeit notes.

In other kinds of cases, for example, where a child has been raped or molested, the judge may order that the journalist refrain from publishing the child's name or photo. Apart from these kinds of cases, criminal cases in Singapore are completely open to the public.


singaporean said...

One wonders where the Sedition Act was throughout the _years_ websites like harimau.org existed. Check out this archived version: http://web.archive.org/web/20010124181800/http://harimau.org/
According to the website, Singapore will invade Malaysia some time in the next three months. I'm sure that's mild compared to one or two angry rants.

And one wonders whether the system has it's priority right: If you beat someone up, it is a non-arrestable offence, and a good chance you can get away scot-free if you cannot be identified. If you talk about about beating someone up, online or otherwise, you are one 999 call away from an arrest.

singaporean said...

Oops, the earlier link didnt include the gem. Check out this one instead: