Document issued in 1993, archived here in April 2004

A guide to your legal rights

source: original document from People Like Us


     

 

 

 

Showing your Identity Card

There's no legal obligation to carry your NRIC at all times. A uniformed police officer can demand to inspect your NRIC if you have it on you. If you don't, he or she can ask that you produce it within a certain period.

He/she cannot detain you. A plainclothes police officer can only demand to inspect your NRIC if he/she can produce a written authorisation from the Commissioner of National Registration.

You can be arrested (without warrant) if, and only if, on demand, you refuse to give your name and address. Or, if you give a name or address which the officer has reason to believe is false. Or if you give as your address, a place outside Singapore.

(Practical tip - if the officer still insists that you follow him/her despite your having given the officer your name and address when you are not carrying your NRIC, ask the officer, in the presence of others, the reason for believing that the given particulars are false. You may use this information should you later decide to sue the police for false arrest.

 
When you can be arrested without a Warrant of Arrest

You may be arrested without a warrant for committing all cases of molestation and unnatural sexual acts. However, the police must have:

  1. a reasonable suspicion (i.e. he must have some grounds for believing) that you have committed these offenses; or
  2. received a reasonable complaint that you have committed such an offence; or
  3. received credible information that you have committed such an offence.

Entrapment, unfortunately, is legal in Singapore. Entrapment cannot be raised as a defence to an offence in Singapore. A policeman can therefore make a pass at you and subsequently hand you in on that basis. The only safe course of action, really, is to avoid sex in public places.

 
What you can do if you are arrested

You have the right to ask for the reason of arrest (always ask in the presence of witnesses).

The police may detain you for investigation for up to 48 hours, by which time they have to decide whether to release you unconditionally or pursue several other options:

  1. to release you on police bond (so as to make sure you will come back when required to by the police);
  2. to charge you;
  3. to detain you further.

For (2) and (3), you will have to be produced before a magistrate. You have the constitutional right to counsel, but this is not specified how soon after arrest. Access to counsel should be within "reasonable" time.

If you do not have access to counsel up to the point you are being charged, you can tell the magistrate to reserve your plea (i.e. guilty or not guilty) until you have sought legal advice, and to ask for bail. A further hearing date will be given.

Police investigations and Statements

Statements you make to the police can be used against you in court only if they are not caused by any inducement, threat or promise with reference to the charge against you.

That is to say if you were not induced, e.g. "the prosecutor will ask for a lighter sentence if you cooperate" or threatened, e.g. "I'll break your nose if you don't confess", or promised, e.g. "I'll let you see your family if you confess".

If the police have used violence against you, ask to see a medical doctor immediately. If you are denied medical treatment, see a doctor as soon as you possible can. This is to preserve evidence of injuries which may arise out of the violence which has been used against you. Without a medical report to substantiate your claim that violence was used on you, your story may not be believed in Court.

Two kinds of voluntary statements will be recorded:

  • a Witness Statement would include anything the police may ask you in the course of investigation;
  • A Notice Statement is a cautioned statement you can choose to give when you are informed that you are being charged. In this case, you have several options.

You have a right to an interpreter. You have the right to write down the statement, to correct it and to sign it. And you have the right to remain silent, but this may invite a negative inference being drawn by the judge in court since it I believed that if you are innocent, you will say something in your defence at this point (e.g. give an alibi that you could not have committed the crime since you were somewhere else and that you can prove it).

You should attempt to remember everything you have said to the police. You should also try to remember the statements which you have written down. One way is to make some private notes of what you said or wrote, as soon as you have the chance to do so. The Witness Statement referred to above is not available to your lawyers until and unless the Prosecution decides to produce it at the trial of your offence. If the Prosecution decides to produce your Witness Statement, it will be to impeach your credit in Court when you give oral evidence on the stand which is contradictory to your Witness Statement. Hence, it is very important that you try to remember what you have said to the police and what statements were taken from you. If your credit in Court is impeached, your story will be rejected by the Court and you may be convicted of an offence.

 
In Court

There are three courses of action open to you:

  1. Plead guilty. A Statement of Facts would be read out. If you do not agree, your guilty plea would not be accepted. Any criminal record? This would affect sentencing. Mitigation is asking the court for leniency in sentencing e.g. because you had tried to make good the monies that were stolen, etc.
  2. Plead not guilty. You will be set for hearing and bail if the offence is bailable.
  3. If unsure, ask for adjournment to seek legal advice and for bail.

 
Criminal Legal Aid

Run by volunteer lawyers under the Law Society, only those who cannot afford legal fees qualify for this scheme.

For more information, write to:

The Director, Criminal Legal Aid Scheme
Law Society of Singapore
1 Colombo Court #08-29/30
Singapore 179742.

If you cannot afford legal fees and are being charged in court and wish to seek legal advice or plead not guilty, you can inform the court and go to:

Criminal Legal Aid Scheme Office
Level 5 (Beside Subordinate Court No. 6)
1 Havelock Square
Singapore 059724.


 

Foreword by Yawning Bread

This was probably the very first document issued by People Like Us. It was issued in 1993, soon after People Like Us was formed, and in the wake of the police raid at Rascals discotheque.

The police raid is also of historical interest, and the correspondence between Wilfred Ong and the police can be seen in the appendix Singapore's 1993 Stonewall: the police raid at Rascals disco.

In the early 1990s, police raids on suspected meeting places of gay men, and even entrapment were a regular occurrence. Thus this document was very relevant.

The advice given in this document is still valid as of 2004, since the laws have not changed in the meantime. However, the addresses given at the end of the pamphlet must have changed by now, since the Colombo Court building has been demolished.

 

Footnotes

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Addenda

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