Court Process


Proceedings in Court

 

Here are some things you should know about criminal proceedings that are conducted in Court:

 

When will criminal proceedings in Court start?

  • You will be required to attend Court when you have been formally charged for a criminal offence by the Police.
  • You may also be required to attend Court when any other enforcement agencies such as the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB), Commercial Affairs Department (CAD), Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) and Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) have determined that you have committed a criminal or regulatory offence and they wish to formally take action against you by charging you for the offence.
  • You would know of the nature of the charge against you in advance if the Police had already asked you to record a Cautioned Statement providing your defence to the charge earlier before your attendance in Court.

 

What takes place at the first hearing in Court?

  • When you are first required to attend in Court to answer to the charge, the charge (including the nature of the criminal offence alleged to have been committed by you) will be formally read and explained to you in Court in the language which you understand and through an interpreter if necessary.
    1. The charge will contain the essential and basic details of the alleged offence such as the date, time, location and person or property involved
    2. The charge will also contain the punishment prescribed by law for the offence
    3. If you are alleged to have committed and are charged for more than one offence, each offence will be stated in a separate charge
  • If any other person is alleged to have committed the offence together with you, he may be charged together with you for the same offence and a separate charge may be preferred against him
  • You will be required to inform the Court of the course of action you wish to you take:
    1. Plead guilty (i.e. you wish to admit to the charge and accept that you will be punished for the offence)
    2. Claim trial (i.e. you wish to deny that you committed the offence as alleged and you wish to prove your innocence or provide your defence at a trial in Court)

 

Can you request for an adjournment to have more time to decide on your course of action?

  • You may request for the Court to grant you an adjournment if you require more time to prepare your case or consult a lawyer before you decide on your next course of action.
  • The Court will consider the reasons for your request for an adjournment and then decide whether or not these reasons are of merit and deserving of your request being granted.
  • If the case is adjourned, you may be required to furnish Court bail to ensure your attendance at the next hearing in Court or whenever required.

 

What can you do before you decide to plead guilty or claim trial?

  • You may make an appeal to the Prosecution (i.e. the Public Prosecutor / Attorney-General’s Chambers or the Police or other enforcement agencies which is prosecuting the charge against you Court) to ask them to take a more lenient course of action against you.
    • These appeals are also referred to as representations
    • This process of appealing to the Prosecution and persuading them to grant your requests  is  sometimes referred to as the plea bargaining or plea negotiation process.
  • Although you may make this appeal on your own, you may wish to consult a lawyer to obtain a clearer understanding of the facts and circumstances which may be relevant to the Prosecution’s consideration of your appeal.
  • The Prosecution will consider the reasons for your appeal and then decide whether or not these reasons are of merit and deserving of your request being granted.
  • You may benefit from engaging a lawyer to prepare the appeal or representations on your behalf for a number of reasons, including:
    1. The lawyer may be able to identify and direct the Prosecution’s attention towards facts and circumstances which are particularly relevant in your case
    2. The lawyer may be in a better position to understand and address matters of law or government policy which may be relevant in the Prosecution’s consideration of your appeal or representations
    3. The lawyer would be able to advise you on the relative advantages and disadvantages of pursuing any particular course of action
    4. The lawyer would be able to advise you on the reasonable prospects of successfully claiming trial
  • The Prosecution has the discretion to decide on the nature and course of the prosecutorial action that will be taken against you, including the following:
    1. Whether or not to charge you
    2. What type of charge to prefer against you
    3. How many charges to prefer against you
  • After the Prosecution has made its final decision on the nature and course of the prosecutorial action that will be taken against, you will ultimately be required to decide on whether you wish to plead guilty or claim trial to the charge.

 

What if you require more time to conduct the plea bargaining and negotiation process?

  • The Court may direct that the case be heard and managed in a Pre-Trial Conference (PTC) if the plea bargaining and negotiation process requires more time to take place.
  • A PTC is an administrative hearing in a closed-door setting which is conducted by a Judge with the attendance of your lawyer and an officer representing the Prosecution  (e.g. Deputy Public Prosecutor). You will need to attend the PTC if you are not represented by a lawyer.
  • At the PTC, the Judge will be updated on the progress and developments in the case, including the status of your plea bargaining and negotiation process with the Prosecution and whether any new decision has been reached by either party on how the course of action which they wish to take.
  • When the Prosecution has informed the Court of its final decision on the nature and course of action that will be taken against you, you will need to inform the Court of your response and decision:
    • If the Prosecution decides to proceed with the existing charge against you, you will need to decide whether you wish to plead guilty or claim trial to that charge.
    • If the Prosecution decides to proceed with an alternative or amended charge against you (e.g. for a less serious offence), you will need to  whether you ultimately wish to plead guilty or claim trial to that charge.
  • If you decide to plead guilty, the Court will schedule a date on which your case will be heard in an open courtroom where you will be formally required to plead guilty to the charge and be sentenced. This type of hearing in an open courtroom setting is also referred as a Mention.
  • If you decide to claim trial, the Court will schedule dates on which a trial will be conducted.

 

What happens after you plead guilty or claim trial?

  • If you decide to plead guilty, the Judge will impose a sentence against you and you will need to fulfil the requirements of the particular sentence imposed (e.g. pay a fine or financial penalty, serve a period of time in prison).
  • If you decide to claim trial, the Judge will consider the evidence presented at a trial and arrive at a decision as to whether the Prosecution has succeeded in proving your guilt.
    1. If the Prosecution has succeeded in proving its case against you and that you committed the offence alleged, the Judge will convict you of the charge and impose a sentence against you.
    2. If the Prosecution has failed in proving its case against you and that you committed the offence alleged, the Judge will acquit you of the charge.
  • If you have been convicted of the charge, you will be given an opportunity to inform the Judge of any mitigating factors which you may have.
  • The Judge will consider your mitigation plea and then impose a sentence against you.
  • Once a decision on the conviction and sentence has been made by the Judge, either party may generally make an appeal to the High Court in the following situations:
    1. If you were sentenced after having pleaded guilty and are not satisfied with the Judge’s decision, you may make an appeal to the High Court against the sentence imposed
      • You may make an appeal against sentence if you feel that it was manifestly excessive or not supported by the facts or the law
      • The Prosecution may make an appeal against sentence if it feels that it was manifestly inadequate or not supported by the facts or the law
    2. If you were convicted and sentenced after having claimed trial and you are not satisfied with the Judge’s decisions, you may make an appeal to the High Court against the conviction and sentence.
    3. If you were acquitted after having claimed trial, the Prosecution may make an appeal to the High Court against the acquittal
  • You will need to file the formal application for an appeal within 10 days from the date of conviction or sentence.
  • The High Court will consider the reasons for any appeal then make a final decision as to whether or not those reasons are of merit and deserving of the appeal being granted.
  • You will need to file the formal application for an appeal within 10 days from the date of conviction or sentence.

If you would like to understand more about how the issues discussed in this article may affect you, contact Jonathan Wong at [email protected] or +65 9424 6208 today.
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