10 March 2009

Why arrested persons shouldn't have lawyers

Despite calls by the Association of Criminal Lawyers of Singapore, the government is not agreeable to telling arrested persons that they have a right to a lawyer. This is not the only shortcoming in police procedures. Why don't Singaporeans care about this issue? Are we too eager to condemn people as guilty the moment they are arrested and conclude that since he must be guilty, why should accused persons have rights? Full essay.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is all very interesting. However I'm more interested in protecting the interests of the victims, especially in cases when the accused is definitely guilty of the crime. (Eg. when the accused is caught red-handed).

Do you know that victims are kept out of the process at all? Victims are not advised on the hearing/IPC dates, the status/outcome of the proceedings etc, unless the prosecutor/police need their direct involvement.

This is so even
- if victims specifically request for more information.
- if the criminal puts up an appeal after sentencing by the trial judge
- if the criminal puts in false mitigating factors, and the victim gets to know it (thanks to the media) and tries to convey the knowledge to the prosecutor/police.

i've been there, so i wld say improvement shld be made for both perpetrators AND victims.

if you want me to contact you on this, drop a note here.

KiWeTO said...

soon to be ex-first world economy,
somewhat first-class bureaucracy,
but still a third world mindset towards its own citizens.

What happens when no serf wishes to have his head lopped off, and not enough serfs feel that its time to change.

Perhaps that time will come one day.


E.o.M.

Anonymous said...

"Two [procedures that need amended] are highlighted in the Straits Times story: the right of arrested persons to get a lawyer immediately, and the refusal by the prosecution to share evidence with the defence."

As I have previously said before, the PAP government is adamant that it should be equipped with the widest possible discretionary powers with which to abuse; it is averse to the notion of checks and balances in the system, preferring instead the current situation which is now beyond corrupt.

The above two are even more examples of this.

"Do you think the whole system is stacked against you from the first moment?"

That is the PAP government's intended outcome.

"[Patron-client relationships are] probably a direct cultural descendant of the Confucian idea of a benevolent sovereign. Traditional Malay society also has these features."

That is exactly what Lee Kuan Yew set out to accomplish: the detruction of at least the beginnings of a modern state based on rule of law, and the re-creation of feudal China.

Confucius said...

Perhaps it is a good thing. It means that you have to be clear whether to go black or white. Better not stray into that gray zone(wrong place, wrong time?) or you will definetly be locked away for good. You cannot win. The system is stacked against you.

Play it safe. Stay far far away from the wrong side of the law and everybody's happy.

Anonymous said...

What does it say about
Singaporeans if I am
not entirely sure if "Confucius"
is being sarcastic or serious?

Anonymous said...

"The proposed changes to the code, which is being wholly reviewed for the first time in 40 years, were announced last December by the Law Ministry in a push to ensure that the country's criminal justice system remains relevant."

40 years, and they are only reviewing Criminal Procedure Code in whole NOW? What have these Ministry of Law folks been doing all these while? No wonder our law often seems ridiculous and contradictory, as often pointed out by various bloggers. Is that a result of patch-after-patch of quick-fixes and skipping the "overall consistency review"?

Worst we do not have an established system of challenging unfair laws by referring to the spirit of the Constitution.

1st world or 3rd world, or (worst) feudal China plus legalised corruption?

Chris said...

I come from, Australia, one the jurisdictions named in the article which allows arrested persons to have a lawyer present.

In response to Anonymous victims certainly should have a role in the system. In Australia most states have victim liaison officers that keep victims informed of the progress of the prosecution. After the sentence is imposed they are then given information about release dates by corrective services authorities. Victims appreciate this service and it is not expensive to provide.

In response to the article generally I am amazed that most singaporeans accept that police can do whatever they want. I expect the highest standards from police. If they can't follow the right procedure how can you be confident that the person was guilty? Maybe it was just a convenient way to clear the case, maintain the quota of convictions and convince people that the police are keeping the community safe.

The way that singapore operates its criminal justice system upsets me, and I don't even live there.

The said...

/// If they can't follow the right procedure how can you be confident that the person was guilty? ///

Chris, that is the nub of the problem. The police in Singapore ARE following the proper (currently existing) procedures. The point of the article and Alex's post is, that those procedures do not include cautionary statement by the police, access to lawyer, and sharing of evidence.

Anonymous said...

bingo, well said!

Anonymous said...

Cannot blame Sporeans. It is not easy to undo decades of brainwashing and propaganda by the mouth-piece media?

Anonymous said...

"Cannot blame Sporeans. It is not easy to undo decades of brainwashing and propaganda by the mouth-piece media?"

Yes we can. We started out
unbrainwashed. The Straits Times
in the early years of independence
was nothing like what it looks
like now. The change happened with
our consent. LKY was our choice
throughout - he was never punished
through the ballot box for it.

It continues to this day.

And don't give me the rubbish
about poor alternatives. The
alternatives were destroyed
the same way. At every step,
the majority of the votes
went to him.

Anonymous said...

It is pointless to argue on the issue of rights and fairness solely for their sake. It's all about cost and benefits. If having a "fairer" criminal justice system results in doubling or tripling the cost on the taxpayer, reducing the overall benefits in the broad picture, is it worth it? Similarly on the political scene, Singaporeans tolerate a monopoly and its abuses because the benefits witnessed thus far outweighs those possible from the alternatives on a small nation such as ours.

Anonymous said...

"It is pointless to argue on the issue of rights and fairness solely for their sake. It's all about cost and benefits. If having a "fairer" criminal justice system results in doubling or tripling the cost on the taxpayer, reducing the overall benefits in the broad picture, is it worth it? Similarly on the political scene, Singaporeans tolerate a monopoly and its abuses because the benefits witnessed thus far outweighs those possible from the alternatives on a small nation such as ours."

The difference between a truly
civilized country and a Mickey
Mouse country of bumpkins is
the number of people who think
like that and vote that way.

Nothing wrong with that.

Nothing
wrong with expressing contempt for
it too.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous at 15 March, 2009 00:46:

"If having a "fairer" criminal justice system results in doubling or tripling the cost on the taxpayer, reducing the overall benefits in the broad picture, is it worth it?"

Yes, it is.

To those who have been unfairly treated by the system.

The previous poster was right: the problem with Singapore-think, which in turn was brought about by the toxic nature of PAP-think, is the number of people who think your way.

And just because that number might be in the majority, it doesn't make it right. (The majority of Germansalso supported Hitler believing him to be right. Until of course, they found out that he was gassing Jews, Gypsies and gays and lesbians.)

What if somone had been wrongly accused of a crime with a mandatory death sentence? Is it worth it to the family and other loved ones of the person murdered by the state to have a fairer system instead?

What if that wrongly accused person was someone YOU love.

It's about time that you, and that criminal government whose philosophy you obviously support, stop putting a dollar value on human life.

Anonymous said...

Based on certain posts here,
it is obvious that democracy
is not enough.

You need a strong liberal
tradition to prevent it from
being debauched by boors.

That's why some countries
start out democratic and
end up something else.

Which case Singapore turns
out to be we will know in a decade
after LKY's passing.

From the likes of some of the people posting here, I am not
optimistic.

Anonymous said...

Great post. What really got me thinking was the bit about the patron-client relationship.

I agree that the State of Singapore works on this form of patronage, with the government as the patron, and everyone else (including institution such as the police) as the clients. In studies of state-society relations, the State is about interactions between the various institution, namely the government, police, military, civil society, judiciary, trade union, media, etc.

This interaction that takes place in Singapore appears to be lopsided, government giving orders to everyone else. However, there must be still some bargaining process that takes place between these institutions. The thing is, these bargaining processes take place behind closed doors and is not open to the public eye.

As with every government, ours aims to promote law and order in the State. I speculate that in bargaining processes, our government has had the upper hand in negotiation, both with the police as well as the judiciary, probably having a pact that meant the PAP saying "you support us and keep us in power as government (even to a point of instilling fear in the public), I'll give you some concessions (either in budget, easier-to-work-with black and white procedures, etc)". If the government does allow some judicial reform, such as now, it will not be to the extent that it allows for a can of worms to be opened.

Because of these concessions, these other institutions willingly become tools for the PAP government to keep its power, becoming willing clients in a patronage network, leaving no space for checks and balances. And surely a society living within such a State structure would think the world of their government, because their environment has been socially and politically engineered for that particular purpose.

Anonymous said...

Not exactly on topic, but
does anyone here recall a
law that was passed making
it illegal to put a Minister
under surveillance?

Anonymous said...

Hi YB,

Just thought I'd include this bit of information, taken from the Constitution to this discussion:

Liberty of the person
9. —(3) Where a person is arrested, he shall be informed as soon as may be of the grounds of his arrest and shall be allowed to consult and be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice.

I know it is not much of a help, but what struck me was how evasively worded the above is: exactly where may the consultation with a legal paractitioner take place?

Looks like major constitutional; reform is urgently needed in this country, and not only on this particular issue.

X' Ho said...

"Sometimes, the saddest thing about Singapore is not that we have an authoritarian government, but that the people think it's the best thing that's ever happened to them."
My response - you are absolutely right that's why the Straits Times is directly to blame tho' like all of Singapore, their hands are also tied into subservience. Btw, I had a pal who was arrested for having sex in a public cubicle & was told by the police that if he confessed to being guilty he'd be let off. Stupidly, the pal believed, you can imagine what happened to him. So yes, the police do lie on the job. But then, why have sex with Singaporeans at all? I'd rather do it with a rubber doll. Ha ha.

lee hsien tau said...

Bearing in mind the goons are working for a corrupt garhmen.

Got another such story at:

http://chiam-see-tong.blogspot.com