24 Jul 2017 Posted in Press releases
The Ministry of Law is seeking public feedback on proposed amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) and Evidence Act. The proposed amendments, which relate to the powers of investigators, court procedures and evidence, and sentencing and other powers of the court, seek to enhance the fairness of existing procedures and ensure the accuracy and equity of outcomes in the criminal justice system.
The proposed amendments are the result of ongoing reviews of the law to ensure that the administration of criminal justice continues to serve the public well and meet the needs of law enforcement. The CPC was repealed and replaced in 2010, while the last major amendments to the Evidence Act were in 2012. The latest amendments will help strengthen the law and increase protection for the vulnerable, while maintaining a fair balance between the Defence and Prosecution.
Members of the public are invited to give comments and feedback on the proposed amendments between 24 July 2017 and 24 August 2017.
Introduction of video recording of interviews
- Under this proposal, investigators will be allowed to take statements from witnesses via video recording. Video recording will allow the court to more effectively determine voluntariness and weight of the statements by showing the flow of the interview and the demeanour of the interviewer and interviewee.
- Video-recorded statements of certain witnesses, such as complainants in serious sexual offences, can also be used in place of their oral evidence-in-chief. This will help minimise the trauma they face in repeatedly recounting their ordeal.
- There will be safeguards to prevent misuse of the videos, for example, putting them on sale on a black market.
Enhanced protection for complainants of sexual and child abuse offences
- Persons who report sexual or child abuse offences often face high degrees of stress and trauma when participating in the criminal process. In addition to the hardship they personally experience, this can affect their ability to give evidence, which in turn affects the ability of the criminal justice system to deliver a just outcome.
- Amendments to the CPC and Evidence Act are proposed to enhance protection for such persons and minimise the trauma they face when participating in the criminal process. These include the protection of their identity from publication from the moment they report the offence, the use of physical screens in court to shield them from direct contact with the accused person, the automatic use of in camera (closed-door) hearings when they are testifying, and a general prohibition on asking them questions about their sexual history and behaviour that do not relate to the charge, including their appearance.
Expanding the community sentencing regime
- When the CPC was repealed and replaced in 2010, one significant change was the introduction of Community Sentences. This recognised that better outcomes can result from giving certain offenders the opportunity to be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society while remaining in the community.
- In this latest round, amendments are proposed to expand, in a controlled way, the number of offenders who are eligible for Community Sentences. This will allow more offenders to benefit from rehabilitative opportunities. First, offenders who have previously been sentenced to a short term of imprisonment or a previous term of Reformative Training will be eligible for Community Sentences. Second, more offences will be eligible for Mandatory Treatment Orders (which require the offender to undergo treatment for mental health conditions) and the flexibility of such orders will be enhanced. Third, the Courts may impose a suspended imprisonment sentence together with a Community Sentence. Upon breach of the Community Sentence, this imprisonment sentence will automatically apply. This will encourage compliance with the Community Sentence.
Improving the victim compensation order regime
- At present, criminal courts have the power to order compensation payments to victims when they pass sentence. Amendments are proposed to further ease the process of victims obtaining compensation through the criminal courts. First, at present, the court is also obliged to actively consider whether or not to order compensation. It is proposed that where they do not order a compensation payment, they must give reasons for not doing so. Second, courts will be empowered to order certain forms of compensation to the dependents of a victim whose death was caused by an offence. Third, victims will be able to participate in the compensation order process by giving evidence and making submissions, through a lawyer or personally.
- Other proposed amendments and more details can be found on the Ministry of Law website.
- The CPC provides the framework for criminal investigations and the procedure for criminal hearings, including trials and appeals. The Evidence Act provides the framework for all matters concerning evidence in court, including in criminal cases.
Fact Sheet on the Background of the CPC and the Evidence Act(0.1MB)
Fact Sheet on the Key Proposed Changes to the CPC and the Evidence Act(0.1MB)
Last updated on 24 Jul 2017