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M Ravi raises alarm over bill granting police warrantless search powers

Human rights lawyer M Ravi raised red flags on proposed amendments to Singapore’s criminal justice laws. Expressing concern, he warned that granting police expanded search powers may compromise public rights, paving the way for potential abuse of authority.

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On 10 January, the Ministry of Law (MinLaw) and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) presented the Criminal Procedure (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2024 for its First Reading in the Singapore Parliament.

This bill, introducing amendments to the key legislation governing Singapore’s criminal justice process, notably grants the police expanded powers to conduct searches without a warrant on individuals suspected of arrestable offences.

Singaporean human rights lawyer, M Ravi, has expressed significant concerns regarding these proposed amendments.

He cautioned that the public may no longer have the right to refuse a search by a police officer, potentially leading to an abuse of power.

Search without warrant

According to a statement issued by MHA, the ministry said the Bill aims to “update and enhance” the powers of the Police and other law enforcement agencies (LEAs), including their powers of arrest, search and investigation.

One significant amendment will allow the Police to conduct a search without warrant when they have reason to believe that the relevant evidence is in the possession or power of a suspect of an arrestable offence.

Currently, a search without a warrant is permitted only if a person is unlikely to produce evidence in response to a production order.

“However, it is not straightforward to accurately determine at the outset that a person will not, or is unlikely to, comply with a production order. ”

Uncooperative suspects can hamper investigations by delaying searches and tampering with evidence, the ministries said.

This will better equip them to combat crime and lead to greater operational efficiency, they added.

“The Police will be empowered to search arrested persons at the point of arrest, to remove dangerous items held by suspects, such as razor blades and needles.”

Under the Bill, obstructing a police officer from conducting a lawful search will become an arrestable offence, with potential penalties of up to six months’ imprisonment or a fine of up to S$5,000 (US$3,750), or both.

Corporate entities convicted of the offence could face fines of up to S$10,000.

Additionally, the proposed amendments in the Bill extend the powers of various law enforcement agencies, including the Central Narcotics Bureau and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, to address matters related to offences within their jurisdiction.

For instance, these agencies will gain the authority to re-arrest individuals who have escaped from their custody. They will also be empowered to investigate offenses related to bail and absconding.

This expanded mandate ensures that the relevant agencies can take necessary actions in response to specific cases, allowing them to conduct arrests or investigations with a thorough understanding of the details involved.

Forensic medical examination

The amendments also aimed to enhance public safety by fortifying authorities’ capabilities to combat crime, particularly serious sexual offences, and to improve the overall efficiency of the country’s criminal court processes.

If the bill is successfully passed in parliament, the police will gain the authority to mandate forensic medical examinations for accused individuals when deemed relevant, involving procedures such as DNA swabs or blood samples.

Refusal to comply without reasonable excuse will be deemed an offence, and the bill outlines the suggested penalties for non-compliance.

In addition, the ministries are advocating for a new and more stringent sentencing option, Sentence for Enhanced Public Protection (SEPP), specifically tailored for dangerous offenders convicted of violent or sexual crimes.

This includes the introduction of minimum jail terms and the potential for detention beyond the usual prison term, extending to life imprisonment.

Offenders sentenced to SEPP will not be automatically released at any point but will only be released if found suitable after a minimum term of between 5 and 20 years, as determined by the court.

SEPP will apply to offenders convicted of serious violent or sexual offences such as culpable homicide, rape, and sexual penetration of minors.

The bill, encompassing these crucial reforms, is slated for debate in the parliamentary session scheduled for a later date.

M Ravi raises concern over the proposed amendments

On Tuesday (16 January), Mr Ravi in a Facebook post expressed concern about the CPC amendments, suggesting that the new bill could create an environment conducive to potential abuse of power by law enforcement officers.

To illustrate his point, he employed two fictional characters: Sgt Teh, representing a police officer, and Mr Mohan, symbolizing an ordinary civilian.

Presently, an officer requires a court order to search a house even after making an arrest. While officers may order a search without a warrant if they believe the suspect is unlikely to comply with a court order, Mr Ravi pointed out that this practice is infrequent.

He warned that the new Bill will allow Sgt Teh to search Mr Mohan if he believes that he has committed an arrestable offence.

“In Singapore, civilians currently have no enshrined right to refuse arrest by police officers who are behaving illegally. ”

“While the new law does not legally enable Sgt Teh to arbitrarily search Mr Mohan’s house, practically speaking, it tells Mr Mohan that he has no right to refuse an arrest and home search if Sgt Teh orders one.”

Under the present procedure, if an officer goes to a civilian house and wants to conduct a “search”, the civilian can always reply, “You got a warrant?”

Even if the officer makes an immediate arrest, a court order is still needed to search the house, explained Mr Ravi.

” If Sgt Teh just shows up and tells Mr Mohan that he’s suspected of a crime and unlikely to produce evidence, the innocent Mr Mohan may be skeptical and uncooperative. ”

He also expressed concern about the potential for the new powers granted to police officers to be used for self-serving purposes.

“In a perfect world with multiple uncooperative, guilty suspects and no corrupt police officers, this would be an ideal law. ”

However, he highlighted that over the past five years, instances of officers abusing their power under the guise of the law have been observed.

He suggested that in a world where officers may misuse their authority, driven by factors like rising costs of living and financial pressures, the law could potentially enable unlawful searches in the future.

He anticipated scenarios where individuals might be unaware that a police officer conducted an illegal search and seized items without proper documentation.

 

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Just digest this…SG is a police state and the G is actually a regime that hides behind made up powers and laws to protect themselves. SG is actually a commy regime cloaked in democracy.
want more proof? Watch Izzy on trial and the outcome.

“Singapore is proposing to hold “dangerous offenders” indefinitely, even after they complete their jail sentences, according to a bill submitted to parliament on Wednesday. The proposed legislation would apply to those above 21 who are convicted of crimes that include culpable homicide, rape and sex with minors. As a safeguard, it would be the court that decides if an offender falls under what it calls the sentence for enhanced public protection. Our current sentencing options are inadequate to deal with such egregious offending.” Under the proposed bill, such offenders would not be automatically released after completing their prison terms, unless… Read more »

This is a human rights violation. Any search of a citizen must be done with consent. If the police suspect that the citizen is hiding something, lock him up in the station like the 14year old Benjamin Lim and apply to Court for a warrant to search his property. The Courts’ power should not be removed by the police force. The Court can protect the citizen if there is a need. The Police already have too much power in Singapore but crime isn’t coming down. So what is the point of giving them more?

Co- operate with The Police. Lah
Shanmugam, Menon & Lucien Wong The 3 Oracles, have extra ordinary Powers, To See A Future Criminal in The Making.
Jack Neo
Can Now Make New Movie.
Hahaha.

Soon to hit the streets of SG , more AETOS police from myanmar, taiwan, philippines and india..
Shanmugam has already reassured sgs that they were already employed here for 10yrs and in that time only 1% “erred ” against the locals.
Well its a different world these days …lets see …

super wayang leh. ISA wasn’t enough?

Now the police has no law to govern their action. Similarly criminals have now law too.

Having to follow laws, makes police professionals. Now they can act like criminal, nothing to govern them.

Similarly, kids kicking balls on the street don’t make them footballers. It is the rules and referees that make them professional footballers!

The recent case over Police ID check oso in BIG ambiguity becos we were TOLD by Authorities to check Police ID or verify by phone until some ppl decide that it is NOT Needed and arrest ppl for obstruction!

So please Clarify this. As Police Chiefs, shouldn’t this point be clearly set out.

At this Digital Age, they can’t have a Digital Warrant approved by the Heads. Unless the criminal is a flight risk, if not what is the urgency in waiting for 1 or 2 days for the warrant ?!?

Unauthorized searching is an invasion to ppl privacy. That Rights has to be held accountable by the heads who approve it and bases on sound reasoning just like how they ensure evidence are NOT Tampered with. If their SOP aren’t up to mark. Shouldnt they settle all these issues.

If you want to fine those who obstruct a search, the law must also be made reciprocal, ie if the police find nothing incriminating during the search, then Mha must own up and pay a fine for the futile search.

The fine should be double the amount for obstruction. Why? So that you do not anyhow search!

Granting such powers to the SPF, … is the same as granting this already mega~powered regime with even more power !!! They are entirely unaccountable and operating in opacity as it is, … holding control over the media and with a majority to agree and approve every bill they put up like pofma, public order and now this !!! Truer by the day indeed, in that, … this regime can say and very much do whatever they like, as it’s all “legal and legit” to do so !!! The muppets and morons of SillyPore have fed, adored and created this… Read more »

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