SINGAPORE - Young offenders who are sentenced to reformative training can no longer have their stint backdated to take time spent in custody into account, if proposed tweaks to criminal procedure tabled in Parliament on Monday (Feb 11) are passed.
This would reverse a new law that took effect in October last year as part of wider reforms of the criminal justice system.
Reformative training is a strict regimen aimed at rehabilitating offenders below the age of 21 who commit relatively serious crimes.
Up till last year, it has been the practice for sentencing courts not to backdate reformative training sentences, which could last between 18 months and three years.
This changed when more than 50 diverse reforms to the Criminal Procedure Code - the law that covers matters from investigation to court processes to sentencing - were approved by Parliament in March last year.
Changes related to reformative training include reducing the minimum detention period from 18 months to six or 12 months and providing for backdating if the offender had spent time in remand before being sentenced.
Now, the Ministry of Law has recommended that the legislation be amended to remove the possibility of backdating, to preserve the effectiveness of rehabilitation.
"Backdating reformative training sentences shortens the time spent by the offender in prescribed rehabilitation programmes, and may prevent them from completing these programmes as designed," the ministry said in a press statement.
To prevent cases of offenders being disadvantaged by the impossibility of backdating, agencies will work together to ensure that remand is avoided or minimised in cases where reformative training is likely to be imposed.
Removing the possibility of backdating reformative training stints is one of the key amendments proposed by the ministry to fine-tune processes that were introduced or changed when the Criminal Justice Reform Act was passed in March last year (2018).
Another key amendment relates to video-recorded interviews of suspects, which was the main change introduced in the reforms.
Currently, only the police have the power to investigate any unauthorised recording of the interview process or unauthorised copying or distribution of a video statement.
To make such investigations more efficient, the ministry has proposed changes allowing prescribed law enforcement agencies, such as the Central Narcotics Bureau, to probe offences relating to the video-recording of interviews.
Another amendment proposes to allow sensitive information to be removed from materials disclosed by law enforcement agencies or the prosecution to the defence.
This includes information that can compromise national security, the safety of a person, and public safety or order.
The amendments will set out the mechanism for resolving disputes in court if the defence wants to challenge the removal of such information.
To safeguard the interests of accused persons, sensitive information cannot be removed in situations when the prosecution intends to rely on it and when it can strengthen the defence's case.