CLD Criminal Law Basics

The Criminal Procedure Code: Learning About Arrest Procedures in Singapore

The Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) of Singapore is a part of Singapore’s legislation that details the procedure for the administration of criminal law in Singapore. Through a study of the CPC, one can better understand arrest procedures, as well as the rights possessed by arrested individuals.

Types of Offences

There are two types of offences in Singapore: arrestable and non-arrestable offences.

An arrestable offence is one in which the police can legally arrest the offender without a warrant. However, for non-arrestable offences, the police are required to be in possession of a warrant before they can make an arrest.

The First Schedule of the CPC contains a comprehensive list of offences, along with additional information stating whether or not the offence is an arrestable one.

Some examples of arrestable offences include:

  • Criminal Conspiracy
  • Offences against the state
  • Genocide
  • Piracy
  • Unlawful assembly
  • Impersonation of a public servant
  • Counterfeiting currency
  • Affray
  • Fouling the water of a public spring or reservoir
  • Rash or negligent driving
  • Murder
  • Kidnapping

In the case of a non-arrestable offence, such as mischief or voluntarily causing hurt, a police report must first be made. The police conduct preliminary investigations before bringing the case before the courts. The court will then decide whether or not to issue an arrest warrant.

How an arrest is conducted

Part IV of the CPC details the rules surrounding the actual arrest process.

According to section 75 and 76 of the CPC, the police officer making the arrest is required to physically “touch or confine” the body of the arrestee unless he or she consents to a verbal arrest. If the arrestee resists, the police officer is entitled to the use of reasonable force to complete the arrest, but must not restrain the arrestee more than necessary to prevent escape.

Section 78 of the CPC permits a police officer to search the person upon arrest as well as any place belonging to the arrested person or any other individual with a connection to the offence. Under section 83 of the CPC, a woman may only be searched by another woman. This is done to protect the modesty of the woman being searched.

Rights of the arrested person in custody

When an arrestee has been brought to a police station or detention site, he or she is allowed to contact his family or a lawyer after a reasonable period of time after the arrest. The arrestee’s right to a lawyer is enshrined within Article 9(3) of the Constitution of Singapore, which reads “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.”

According to Article 9(4) of the Constitution of Singapore, as well as section 68 of the CPC, the police can detain a person for only up to 48 hours from the time of arrest, after which, the person will be released unconditionally if the police are unable to determine that he or she has indeed committed an offence. Otherwise, the person will be brought to court or released on bail.

Taking of statements

During investigations, the CPC authorizes the taking of two types of statements by the police: witness statements and cautioned statements.

Witness statements are provided for under section 22 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Section 22 allows the police to orally examine any person believed to have knowledge of the facts and circumstances of the case being investigated. The person being examined is bound to state the truth about the facts of the case, but need not mention things that might expose him to a criminal charge. Such a statement made by the person is known as the witness statement. The statement made by the person must: be in writing, be read to him, and be signed by him.

Section 23 of the CPC deals with cautioned statements. After investigations, the police may decide to press charges against the arrested person. In this case, as per section 23 of the CPC, the arrested person must be served with and have read to him a notice in writing as follows:

“You have been charged with [or informed that you may be prosecuted for] —

(set out the charge).

Do you want to say anything about the charge that was just read to you? If you keep quiet now about any fact or matter in your defence and you reveal this fact or matter in your defence only at your trial, the judge may be less likely to believe you. This may have a bad effect on your case in court. Therefore it may be better for you to mention such fact or matter now. If you wish to do so, what you say will be written down, read back to you for any mistakes to be corrected and then signed by you.”

The arrested person has the right to remain silent. However, his silence or refusal to give a cautioned statement will be recorded.

According to section 258 of the CPC, which deals with the admissibility of the accused’s statements, there are certain circumstances in which a statement obtained from an accused person may be deemed inadmissible in court. For instance, a statement cannot be used as evidence in court if it is made to a police officer below the rank of sergeant. The court will also refuse to admit the statement of an accused if the making of the statement appears to the court to have been caused by any inducement or threat.

Written by Eugene Tai

*The views and opinions expressed in this article do not constitute legal advice and solely belong to the author and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the NUS Criminal Justice Club or its affiliates.