Published: 04 November 2020
Mr Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs what are the criteria and process to prefer charges for capital offences.
1. Mr Speaker, capital offences are very serious offences, such as murder, kidnapping, firearms offences, and trafficking large quantities of drugs.
2. In cases where preliminary investigations reveal that a capital offence may have been committed by an accused person, a holding charge will be tendered against the accused person in court. The accused person will be held in remand while further investigations are conducted.
3. After law enforcement agencies have completed their investigations, they will make their recommendations to the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC). AGC will review the evidence and the circumstances of the case holistically, before exercising its prosecutorial discretion to decide on an appropriate course of action – whether to proceed with the capital charge, lesser charge(s), or to withdraw the charge.
4. Where there are multiple accused persons allegedly involved in the same capital case, the same holding charge may be tendered against all of them initially. After investigations are completed, AGC will consider the sufficiency of the evidence gathered so far, and the specific role of each accused person. The eventual position taken against each accused person would be based on the evidence available and their role in the case, and may therefore differ.
5. I will illustrate this with the Downtown East incident in 2010. In the incident, the victim was attacked by a group of 12 Chinese persons in the aftermath of a settlement talk. Five of the 12 accused persons had armed themselves with knives, a screwdriver, and a bottle of chilli sauce prior to the settlement talk. During the talk, the accused persons accused the victim of staring at them. They surrounded the victim. Those armed used their weapons to stab and slash the victim, while others punched the victim. The victim eventually passed away due to multiple incised wounds.
6. Holding charges of murder were initially preferred against the accused persons. After consideration of the evidence available and the roles played by the accused persons in the incident, the charges were amended to rioting for those who had known that there would be a fight, but did not know that others in their group were armed; rioting with a deadly weapon for those who had known that there would be a fight and that others in their group were armed; and culpable homicide not amounting to murder for those armed and actively attacking the victim. So basically, you can see the different categories of involvement.
7. In line with their respective roles in the incident, the accused persons in the first group received sentences of about three to five years’ imprisonment, and three to six strokes of the cane; those in the second group received sentences of five to six years’ imprisonment, and six strokes of the cane; and those in the third group received sentences of seven to 12 years’ imprisonment, and five to 12 strokes of the cane.
8. I will illustrate with another incident which took place around Pandan Loop in 2014. There were four Indian accused persons, which I will refer to as “A”, “B”, “C”, and “D”. Prior to the attack, “A” told the three other accused persons that “A” and “B” would beat up the victim, “C” would act as a lookout, and “D” would wait in the pick-up. “A” and “B” then took a metal rod each from the back of the pick-up and walked towards the Pandan Loop industrial estate. The victim was subsequently found dead from head injuries due to direct blunt force trauma. “A” fled Singapore for India shortly after the incident.
9. Holding charges of murder were initially preferred against “B”, “C”, and “D”. Subsequently, there was careful consideration of the evidence and the respective roles played by them. It was noted that “A” was the main perpetrator and the three other accused persons knew that metal rods would be used before the incident, but there was no prior discussion to cause death to the victim. The charges against the three accused persons were therefore amended to voluntarily causing grievous hurt with a dangerous weapon with common intention. “B” was eventually sentenced to three years nine months’ imprisonment and three strokes of the cane, while “C” and “D” were sentenced to three years six months’ imprisonment.