Parliament: No need for 3 judges to hear trials involving death penalty: Law Minister

Under the current system, every capital case will be given a second look by the apex court, which comprises at least three judges, Law Minister K. Shanmugam said in Parliament on March 2, 2018.
Under the current system, every capital case will be given a second look by the apex court, which comprises at least three judges, Law Minister K. Shanmugam said in Parliament on March 2, 2018.PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM YOUTUBE

SINGAPORE - There is no need for cases involving the death penalty to be tried by a court of three judges, Law Minister K. Shanmugam said in Parliament on Friday (March 2).

He said that under the current system, every capital case will be given a second look by the apex court, which comprises at least three judges.

In his speech, Mr Shanmugam also announced that claim limits in the Small Claims Tribunal will be raised this year.

During the debate on the budget for the Law Ministry (MinLaw), MP Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) asked whether Singapore should have a system where three judges sit in trials for capital cases.

Mr de Souza asked if the ministry would be open to studying whether it would be beneficial for the criminal justice system as a whole for capital cases to be heard by three High Court judges.

Mr Shanmugam replied: "We haven't yet seen a need to review this. But it does not mean no."

He told the House that since 2012, if a person is sentenced to death and chooses not to appeal, a confirmation hearing must still be held by the Court of Appeal.

"That ensures that the imposition of the capital punishment is always reviewed by the apex court of at least three judges. So there is already a two-level process with at least three Judges of Appeal looking at the matter," said Mr Shanmugam.

Another MP, Mr Patrick Tay (West Coast GRC), said he hoped MinLaw would seriously look into reviewing the jurisdiction of the Small Claims Tribunals (SCT) so that more people can have economical and expedient orders and judgment to their contractual claims.

Currently, the tribunals hear claims of up to $10,000. This limit can be raised to $20,000 by consent from both parties.

Mr Tay, who has raised the issue in Parliament previously, said many professional freelancers who are on a contract for service use the SCT when they are not paid for work rendered.

A raising of the claims limits will be a boon for claimants and freelance workers alike, he said.

Responding, Mr Shanmugam said amendments will be introduced this year to allow claims of a higher value.

He said it is hoped that this would allow claims at the tribunals to be resolved in a quick and cost-effective manner.