Bills to modernise criminal justice

More offenders, including those who have previously served a short jail term, will be eligible for community sentences.
More offenders, including those who have previously served a short jail term, will be eligible for community sentences. PHOTO: ST FILE

More offenders, including those who have previously served a short jail term, will be eligible for community sentences under wide-ranging proposed reforms to modernise the criminal justice process.

The Ministry of Law (MinLaw) tabled the Criminal Justice Reform Bill and the Evidence (Amendment) Bill in Parliament yesterday, which cover more than 50 diverse changes to the entire criminal justice process, from investigation and court processes, to sentencing. The ministry said the proposed amendments are a major step in the Government's long-term efforts towards a more progressive, balanced and modern criminal justice system.

The changes proposed include allowing the police to take statements from suspects and victims via video recording. This will give the court an objective account of the interviews with suspects, while video-recorded statements of vulnerable victims can be used in place of court testimony to minimise their trauma.

A suite of measures was also introduced to enhance protection for victims of sexual offences or child abuse.

During a public consultation on the proposed amendments last year, some raised concerns, such as over whether individuals should be allowed to opt out of video-recorded interviews. In response, MinLaw said individuals should be able to opt out as some may be willing to give a statement to the police only off-camera.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2018, with the headline 'Bills to modernise criminal justice'. Print Edition | Subscribe