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An Insight into the Pre-Trial Stage



The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) shares with us the role of an Investigation Officer in the Singapore Police Force and the procedure behind the pre-trial, investigative process, where statements are being taken “behind closed doors” while suspects are being held in custody or taken in for questioning. 


During the interview, he shared with us:

  • The roles and responsibilities of an Investigation Officer (IO)
  • The effectiveness of Video-Recording of Interviews (VRI) after the 2018 Amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC)
  • Whether an Accused Person has the Right to Silence and Privilege against Self-Incrimination 
  • The treatment of Accused Persons who are assessed to be mentally incapable of providing a statement 


1) What are the roles and responsibilities of an IO? 

CID: An investigation officer (“IO”) will assess Police reports or information of crime, as well as the facts and circumstances of the case to determine if an offence is disclosed. The IO will interview case persons and gather evidence to establish the full facts of the case before he recommends the course of actions to be taken.


2) What is the Standard Operating Procedure for questioning suspects? 

CID: Police comply with the Criminal Procedure Code. In particular, Section 23(3A) of the Criminal Procedure Code states that where a statement made by an accused in answer to a notice read to the accused under subsection (1) is recorded in writing, the statement must (a) be read over to the accused; (b) if the accused does not understand English, be interpreted for the accused in a language that the accused understands; and (c) be signed by the accused.


3) After the 2018 amendments to the CPC, statements made by suspects of rape offences must be taken via video recording. This will allow the Courts to take into account the suspect’s demeanour when deciding the weight to be accorded to statements. Do you think this is a progressive move towards greater accountability and transparency during the pre-trial stage?

CID: Yes, video recording of interviews makes the interview process more transparent by providing an objective account of the interview. During the Second Reading of the 2018 Criminal Justice Reform Bill, the Senior Minister of State for Law, Ms Indranee Rajah (for the Minister for Law) highlighted that the introduction of video-recording of interviews (VRI) will … 

“assist the Courts to try cases more effectively when investigation statements are sought to be admitted in a criminal trial. First, they will be able to take into account the interviewee’s demeanour when deciding on the weight to be accorded to statements. Second, video-recordings also provide an objective account of the interview, to assist the Court in deciding on any allegations made about the conduct of the interview.


The implementation of VRI requires significant investment of infrastructure and training. It will therefore have to be implemented in phases. In the first phase of implementation, we intend to make it mandatory to conduct VRI for suspects in rape offences under section 375(1)(a) of the Penal Code. However, we recognise that there may be instances where there is a need for exceptions. These are set out in the legislation. For example, there may be a need to record a handwritten contemporaneous statement from an accused person at the scene of the crime, when the person is arrested at the scene. The legislation allows for flexibility to take into account such operational exigencies.”



4) From s258 CPC, we know that there is this voluntariness requirement where involuntary admissions / confessions made under inducement, threat or promise will be inadmissible in court. What are some measures taken to ensure that IOs abide by the legal rules and requirements? 

CID: Police comply with the Criminal Procedure Code. In particular, Section 23(3A) of the Criminal Procedure Code states that where a statement made by an accused in answer to a notice read to the accused under subsection (1) is recorded in writing, the statement must (a) be read over to the accused; (b) if the accused does not understand English, be interpreted for the accused in a language that the accused understands; and (c) be signed by the accused.

During Police interviews, IOs will engage the services of interpreters if the interviewee is unable to understand the language used by the interviewing officer, or vice versa.


For accused persons with mental disabilities or young persons (vulnerable victims), an Appropriate Adult (AA) will be present. An AA is a trained volunteer to enable the IO and the suspect or accused person to communicate more effectively during the investigation process.


Video recording of interviews is also available for certain types of offences such as rape.

If the accused person feels that there was involuntary admissions / confessions made under inducement, threat or promise, he can also lodge a Police report for the Police to investigate these allegations. The accused person can also raise to the Courts when he/she feels that the statement was not voluntarily taken.


5)   For suspects suffering from drug withdrawal symptoms or psychiatric problems,

a. how are statements being taken and
b. what measures are put in place to ensure that the IO has conveyed the notice requirement under s23 of the CPC when cautioned statements are taken?

CID: For accused persons who are assessed to be mentally incapable to provide a statement, they will be sent to the necessary medical institution (e.g. hospital or IMH) for assessment. An Appropriate Adult will be activated for accused persons with intellectual disabilities. Police comply with the Criminal Procedure Code. The cautioned statement include the notice as stipulated under s23(1) of CPC. IOs are taught as part of training to read cautioned statements to accused persons. Accused persons are asked to sign every page of the cautioned statement in application of s23 of CPC.


c. What are the existing measures in place to help suspects or offenders with mental disorders (OMD) when his or her statements are being recorded? 

CID: Under the Appropriate Adults Scheme for Persons with Mental Disabilities (AAPMD), suspects with intellectual disabilities will be accompanied by an appropriate adult, who is a trained volunteer to enable the IO and the suspect or accused person to communicate more effectively during the investigation process. With the presence of a neutral third party, it lowers the probability of the suspect misunderstanding the questions posted to them, and vice versa. This increases the reliability and credibility of the statements recorded. 






6) To wrap up, what are your views on the entire pre-trial investigation process and what are some areas of improvement to increase the overall reliability of the accused’s testimony / statement?

CID: Police had improved the investigation process over the years to enhance the overall reliability of the accused’s testimony/statement through initiatives such as:

  • the activation of Appropriate Adults for accused persons with mental disabilities or young persons (vulnerable victims) to enable the IO and the suspect or accused person to communicate more effectively during the investigation process; and
  • the use of video recording of interviews to make the interview process more transparent by providing an objective account of the interview.


Authors’ Bibliography


Jing Jie is a 3rd Year Law Undergraduate minoring in Political Science. He has a deep interest in exploring the various ways behavioural psychology has been applied in legal settings (interrogation room, courtroom). As one of the project managers of CJC-F (Psychology Division), he is in charge of planning and executing various projects. As a member of the editorial team, he curates, edits and delivers new content for CJC-F’s weekly newsletter publication and social media outreach. As a firm believer in ensuring fairness for all in the criminal justice system, Jing Jie explores how the study of forensic psychology can help law enforcement officers, lawyers and judges make better decisions. He hopes that the articles, social media posts and seminar will generate awareness, develop empathy and shed light on the problems surrounding offenders with mental disorders, traumatic victims and vulnerable witnesses.



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