Criminal Motion: What is It and How to File One in Singapore

Last updated on February 20, 2024

criminal motion documents in file

Criminal motions are usually filed in criminal proceedings heard by the General Division of the High Court or Court of Appeal.

What is a criminal motion, and how can you go about filing one if you are a party to a criminal proceeding in Singapore? Read on to find out.

What is a Criminal Motion?

Criminal motions refer to applications that are filed during criminal proceedings, or pending criminal proceedings, by an accused person and/or the Public Prosecutor (PP). Criminal motions can be filed to apply for any of the following:

  • Bail pending trial or appeal;
  • Variation of the amount of bail;
  • Extension of time to file a Notice of Appeal or Petition of Appeal;
  • Permission to review an earlier decision of an appellate court;
  • Permission to refer any question of law of public interest to the Court of Appeal;
  • Reject as invalid an order made by the State Courts;
  • Transfer of a case from the State Courts to the General Division of the High Court;
  • Request for production of papers and documents;
  • Admit further evidence, in the form of an affidavit, for a criminal appeal; and
  • Seek the release of property that had earlier been seized or frozen by the authorities.

What is the difference between a criminal motion and a criminal appeal?

A criminal appeal can only be made against any judgment, sentence or order of a Magistrate’s Court, District Court, or High Court, at the conclusion of a case, if either the accused person or PP is dissatisfied with the court’s decision.

The petition of appeal may be filed with the Registrar of the Supreme Court (if the trial court is the General Division of the High Court) or the Registrar of the State Courts (if the trial court is a Magistrate’s Court or District Court).

On the other hand, criminal motions are applications that can be made at any time in the course of, or pending, criminal proceedings. A criminal motion can be filed to and heard in the General Division of the High Court or the Court of Appeal, whichever court is relevant.

How Can a Criminal Motion be Filed?

To commence a criminal motion, the applicant must file a Notice of Motion to notify the other party or parties of their intention to make a particular application.

The Notice of Motion must be in one of the prescribed forms, as set out in Forms 72 to 75 in the Schedule of the Criminal Procedure Rules 2018, depending on what the criminal motion relates to. The Notice of Motion must contain information on the:

  • Case (e.g. file reference number and which court the criminal motion is to be heard in)
  • Parties to the case
  • Nature of the application (e.g. variation of bail, or extension of time to file a Notice of Appeal)

The Notice of Motion can be filed online by a lawyer on your behalf, through the eLitigation system. Self-represented accused persons can file a criminal motion at the LawNet & CrimsonLogic Service Bureaus.

The Notice of Motion must be supported by an affidavit which sets out a concise statement of the facts, the application being made, and the reasons for making the application.

Further, if you are making the following types of applications, you must also complete and exhibit an Information Sheet (Forms B44A and B45 of Appendix B of the Supreme Court Practice Directions 2021) as part of your affidavit:

  • For an application for an extension of time to file a Notice of Appeal or Petition of Appeal: Form B44A.
  • For an application for permission to review an earlier decision of an appellate court: Form B45.

Finally, the Notice must be sealed by an officer of the Registry of the Supreme Court to prevent it from being opened or inspected by non-parties to the proceedings.

Note that if you are filing a Notice of Motion for permission to refer a question of law of public interest to the Court of Appeal, you must do so within 1 month of the related decision of the General Division of the High Court, unless the Court of Appeal otherwise permits.

What Happens Upon Filing a Criminal Motion?

A hearing date will be provided by the court after the Notice of Motion is filed. Criminal motions filed to the General Division of the High Court are heard at the next available Magistrate’s Appeal sitting.

There must be at least 7 clear days between the service of the Notice of Motion on the other parties to the proceedings and the date of the hearing of the criminal motion. However, exceptions to the 7-day notice requirement may be made in the following circumstances:

  1. Where the court to which the criminal motion is made gives permission to hold the hearing within the 7-day notice period; or
  2. Each party required to be served with the Notice of Motion consents to the application that is sought under the criminal motion (such as an extension of time to file a Notice of Appeal).

The relevant court may also adjourn the hearing of a criminal motion from time to time, as it deems fit.

On the day of the hearing, the court will hear the criminal motion and make a decision whether to grant or dismiss it, and the terms on which it is to be granted or dismissed.

Attendance of Criminal Motions

Members of the public may attend criminal motions which are heard in open court.

In addition, the relevant court may hear a criminal motion in the absence of either party to the criminal proceedings where:

  • The respondent (i.e. the opposing party to the proceedings) is either the prosecution or an accused who is represented by a lawyer; and
  • Each party to the proceeding consents to the criminal motion being dealt with in the absence of that party, and consents to the relief or remedy that is sought under the criminal motion.

However, if the relevant court decides not to grant the relief or remedy being sought in the other party’s absence, then a hearing date must be set down and each party to the proceedings must be informed of the date and time appointed for the hearing.

The relevant court may then proceed to grant or dismiss the criminal motion after hearing every party that attends the hearing for it.

Can a Criminal Motion be Dismissed? 

Generally, the court may either grant the application being sought under the criminal motion or dismiss the criminal motion.

Where a criminal motion is dismissed and the court is of the opinion that the motion was frivolous or vexatious, or an abuse of process, the court may order the applicant of the criminal motion to pay the respondent costs on an indemnity basis, or as otherwise fixed by the court.

In the case of an application for permission to refer a question of law of public interest to the Court of Appeal, the court may dismiss the criminal motion summarily without setting it down for a hearing. This may occur if it appears to the Court of Appeal that the question is not a question of law of public interest which has arisen in the matter or if the application was made without any sufficient ground.

Can I Appeal Against the Court’s Decision on My Criminal Motion Filed? 

There is no right of appeal against the court’s decision on a criminal motion.

Can I Withdraw My Criminal Motion?

The relevant court may grant permission to withdraw the criminal motion if every party to the proceeding consents to the withdrawal. The withdrawal can be done without setting down a date for hearing the criminal motion.

This article has set out some key things to take note of with regard to filing a criminal motion.

If you are involved in criminal proceedings and want to know more about whether filing a criminal motion can help with your matter, please consult a criminal lawyer for legal advice.

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