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Delivered by Mr Bala Reddy Principal Senior State Counsel Attorney-General’s Chambers, Singapore THE RULE OF LAW & THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE PUBLIC PROSECUTOR.

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Presentation on theme: "Delivered by Mr Bala Reddy Principal Senior State Counsel Attorney-General’s Chambers, Singapore THE RULE OF LAW & THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE PUBLIC PROSECUTOR."— Presentation transcript:

1 Delivered by Mr Bala Reddy Principal Senior State Counsel Attorney-General’s Chambers, Singapore THE RULE OF LAW & THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE PUBLIC PROSECUTOR Professor Walter Woon Attorney-General of Singapore

2  In a modern democratic state the Rule of Law entails the following: Laws are  made through a proper, regulated process by a democratically elected legislature  enforced equally, for the rich or poor, influential or powerless, politically well-connected or otherwise Penalties are imposed by a judiciary independent of the executive, or by a tribunal or authority subject to the supervision of an independent judiciary  In a modern democratic state the Rule of Law entails the following: Laws are  made through a proper, regulated process by a democratically elected legislature  enforced equally, for the rich or poor, influential or powerless, politically well-connected or otherwise Penalties are imposed by a judiciary independent of the executive, or by a tribunal or authority subject to the supervision of an independent judiciary 2

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4  The Public Prosecutor must decide whether a case should be brought to the courts : -It is not physically possible to deal with every case in court; -The public interest does not demand that every infringement of the law has to be dealt with by a judge.  The Public Prosecutor must decide whether a case should be brought to the courts : -It is not physically possible to deal with every case in court; -The public interest does not demand that every infringement of the law has to be dealt with by a judge. 4

5  The Public Prosecutor brings a case to court when: He is convinced beyond reasonable doubt of the guilt of the accused. There is sufficient and admissible evidence to convince a judge, beyond reasonable doubt, of the accused’s guilt. The public interest requires the case to be brought to a judge rather than to compound or administer a warning to the accused.  The Public Prosecutor brings a case to court when: He is convinced beyond reasonable doubt of the guilt of the accused. There is sufficient and admissible evidence to convince a judge, beyond reasonable doubt, of the accused’s guilt. The public interest requires the case to be brought to a judge rather than to compound or administer a warning to the accused. 5

6  The decision whether or not to prosecute is a cornerstone of the criminal justice system.  That decision may be compromised by pressure from external sources  The decision whether or not to prosecute is a cornerstone of the criminal justice system.  That decision may be compromised by pressure from external sources 6

7  Prosecutions brought in order to further a political agenda  Safeguards in Singapore  The Attorney-General  is not a member of the Cabinet or any political party.  is appointed for a fixed period  cannot be removed from office except for misbehaviour or inability to discharge his functions, by a tribunal of the Chief Justice and two Supreme Court judges concurring with the Prime Minister’s recommendation to remove the Attorney-General, and if the President agrees with that recommendation  Prosecutions brought in order to further a political agenda  Safeguards in Singapore  The Attorney-General  is not a member of the Cabinet or any political party.  is appointed for a fixed period  cannot be removed from office except for misbehaviour or inability to discharge his functions, by a tribunal of the Chief Justice and two Supreme Court judges concurring with the Prime Minister’s recommendation to remove the Attorney-General, and if the President agrees with that recommendation 7

8 Sources of External Pressure SAFEGUARDS Safeguards in Singapore  Safeguards in Singapore  The Prime Minister is obliged to consult the Chief Justice, the incumbent Attorney- General and the Chairman of the Public Service Commission before proposing a candidate Safeguards in Singapore  Safeguards in Singapore  The Prime Minister is obliged to consult the Chief Justice, the incumbent Attorney- General and the Chairman of the Public Service Commission before proposing a candidate PM Lee Hsien Loong President S R Nathan Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong  The President of Singapore may refuse to appoint a candidate proposed by the Prime Minister if he is not convinced that the candidate is suitable. 8

9 Deputy Public Prosecutors are accountable to the Public Prosecutor. Deputy Public Prosecutors are accountable to the Public Prosecutor. They can only be transferred or dismissed by an independent Legal Service Commission. They can only be transferred or dismissed by an independent Legal Service Commission. Deputy Public Prosecutors are accountable to the Public Prosecutor. Deputy Public Prosecutors are accountable to the Public Prosecutor. They can only be transferred or dismissed by an independent Legal Service Commission. They can only be transferred or dismissed by an independent Legal Service Commission. 9

10  Common tactic of an opposition politician : cry foul when prosecuted and allege that the charges are politically motivated.  Such politicians often attempt to solicit support from foreign groups to exert pressure on the Public Prosecutor.  Common tactic of an opposition politician : cry foul when prosecuted and allege that the charges are politically motivated.  Such politicians often attempt to solicit support from foreign groups to exert pressure on the Public Prosecutor. 10

11  Solution - ensure that the decision to prosecute can be justified objectively.  This requires :  a robust, non-political system of evaluation of cases by the prosecution, and  self-confidence to face down well-funded and coordinated pressure groups, often with powerful and vocal backers.  Solution - ensure that the decision to prosecute can be justified objectively.  This requires :  a robust, non-political system of evaluation of cases by the prosecution, and  self-confidence to face down well-funded and coordinated pressure groups, often with powerful and vocal backers. 11

12  Agitation by foreign activists or the media of a foreign country to stir up indignation when one of that foreign country’s nationals is prosecuted. 12

13  Instances in Singapore of attempts by foreign activists and media to put pressure on local prosecutors and courts in cases involving their nationals. 13

14  Case studies  Case of JB, a young European girl studying in Singapore.  She was arrested with unlawful possession of 687 grams of cannabis.  Case studies  Case of JB, a young European girl studying in Singapore.  She was arrested with unlawful possession of 687 grams of cannabis. 14

15  Case studies MF : a case of vandalism by an expatriate teenager residing in Singapore. 15

16  Case studies FC : a domestic helper from an Asian country working in Singapore executed for the murder of a child). 16

17  Political pressure from abroad was brought to bear in order to interfere with the prosecution of MF and FC. 17

18  Where a Public Prosecutor is a member of the government, such pressures may be difficult to resist, especially where the foreign country involved is an ally or a key trading partner. 18

19  Pressure may come from the public for action to be taken in a particular cause célèbre.  If the Public Prosecutor is member of a political party, the temptation to give in to such populist pressures will be ever-present.  Pressure may come from the public for action to be taken in a particular cause célèbre.  If the Public Prosecutor is member of a political party, the temptation to give in to such populist pressures will be ever-present. 19

20  The independence of a prosecutor can be severely compromised if he or his family is threatened with harm.  In Singapore, the level of violence in society is low, firearms are not easily available and there is no societal tolerance for thugs or blackmailers. Such threats to our prosecutors are minimal.  The independence of a prosecutor can be severely compromised if he or his family is threatened with harm.  In Singapore, the level of violence in society is low, firearms are not easily available and there is no societal tolerance for thugs or blackmailers. Such threats to our prosecutors are minimal. 20

21  Poorly-paid prosecutors with little prospect of career advancement are constantly tempted by rich and powerful defendants.  Combined with threats of violence, the pressure can be overwhelming.  Poorly-paid prosecutors with little prospect of career advancement are constantly tempted by rich and powerful defendants.  Combined with threats of violence, the pressure can be overwhelming. 21

22  Eradication of corruption takes years of sustained effort. In relation to prosecutors:  Zero tolerance for taking a bribe in return for leniency in a case, no matter how small the bribe or trivial the indulgence.  Recruit from amongst the best of the cohort of young lawyers.  To be regarded as professionals and pay market rates.  Clear sense of mission and esprit de corps.  Eradication of corruption takes years of sustained effort. In relation to prosecutors:  Zero tolerance for taking a bribe in return for leniency in a case, no matter how small the bribe or trivial the indulgence.  Recruit from amongst the best of the cohort of young lawyers.  To be regarded as professionals and pay market rates.  Clear sense of mission and esprit de corps. 22

23  In Singapore, two complementary thrusts in the approach to keeping the Legal Service clean :  A prevailing ethos that corruption is both socially and professionally unacceptable.  In Singapore, two complementary thrusts in the approach to keeping the Legal Service clean :  A prevailing ethos that corruption is both socially and professionally unacceptable. 23  Recruit the best available lawyers and pay them market rates.

24  In mid-2008, S, a poor farmer in an Asian country, agreed to sell one of his kidneys for about US$20,000 to T, a wealthy and influential Singaporean suffering from end-stage kidney failure, and other debilitating diseases.  S made a false statutory declaration that he would receive no financial gain for donating his kidney and that he and T were related by marriage. T made similar false declarations. 24

25  S was charged under Singapore’s Human Organ Transplant Act (HOTA) for agreeing to sell his kidney and under the Oaths and Declarations Act (ODA) for false declarations. He pleaded guilty to both charges. He was fined $1, for the HOTA offence and sentenced to two weeks’ imprisonment on the ODA charge.  T was also charged with the same HOTA offence for trying to buy a kidney and under the ODA for false declaration.  T pleaded guilty, was fined for both offences and sentenced to one day’s imprisonment on the ODA charge. 25

26  A system for ensuring the independence of a prosecutor can be beautifully designed and still fail miserably.  There is no foolproof way to ensure that his judgment is not warped by ambition, avarice or prejudice.  In the final analysis, independence can be guaranteed in only one way: appointing a person who has the integrity and courage to stand up for what is right.  A system for ensuring the independence of a prosecutor can be beautifully designed and still fail miserably.  There is no foolproof way to ensure that his judgment is not warped by ambition, avarice or prejudice.  In the final analysis, independence can be guaranteed in only one way: appointing a person who has the integrity and courage to stand up for what is right. Professor Walter Woon Attorney-General Singapore 26


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