Wide ranging reforms to legal system in the pipeline: Ministry of Law

The Supreme Court. Wide ranging reforms to civil and criminal law are part of the Law Ministry's key goals for the next five years.
The Supreme Court. Wide ranging reforms to civil and criminal law are part of the Law Ministry's key goals for the next five years.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Wide ranging reforms to civil and criminal law. A new law school to train family and criminal lawyers. And moves to position Singapore as an international legal hub.

Law Minister K. Shanmugam outlined some of his ministry's key goals for the next five years in his Addendum to the President's address on Friday (Jan 22).

Mr Shanmugam said his ministry would be looking into "substantive reforms in civil and criminal law".

"Our aim is to improve the civil justice system, improve enforcement of civil judgments, and where possible, remove unnecessary complexities in the civil justice system," he said.

There will also be reforms to the Guardianship of Infants Act, Intestate Succession Act (ISA) and the Inheritance (Family Provision) Act (IFPA).

The Law Society said some of the acts urgently need to be refreshed and welcomed the changes.

A spokesman for the society said both the ISA and IFPA have remained unchanged since they were passed in the 1960s.

These changes are part of ongoing efforts to improve family law here.

In 2013, the Family Justice Act was passed and the Family Justice Courts set up with the key aims of making the system more streamlined, cheaper, better able to look out for the interests of children, and of ensuring that the court process does not end up tearing families further apart.

Singapore's third law school - which will focus on community law - will also be set up at UniSIM.

The law school will train graduates in the areas of criminal and family law, said Mr Shanmugam, to address a shortage of such lawyers from the other law schools here.

It was previously announced the the UniSIM Law School would have a first intake of between 50 and 75 students.

A UniSIM spokesman said: "Developments for the UniSIM Law School are on schedule and more details will be announced soon."

At the same time, bankruptcy law will also be relooked, with individual and corporate insolvency legislation unified under a single Act.


At present, the Bankruptcy Act deals with individual debtors, while the Companies Act handles corporate insolvency.

"We will be introducing a more rehabilitative system that allows bankrupts to be discharged within clear timeframes," said Mr Shanmugam, adding that this will involve credit providers doing better risk assessments, and encouraging borrowers to work responsibly towards clearing their dues.

Finally, the Ministry will also seek to develop Singapore as an international hub for legal services.

In the past two years, the Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC) and Singapore International Mediation centre was set up.

The SICC heard its first case last year, a $1.1 billion dispute between the Singapore subsidiary of an Australian company, and an Indonesian firm.

Said Mr Shanmugam: "We will build on our strengths, help legal practitioners develop expertise in key practice areas, as well as enhance our supporting infrastructure."