Police Investigation Process in Singapore

Last updated on February 25, 2019

Featured image for the "Police Investigation Process in Singapore" article. It features a man sitting in a investigation room.

When does a Police Investigation Start?

Police investigations usually start when they receive information about the alleged offence. What happens subsequently depends on the type of offence in question, meaning whether the offence is arrestable or non-arrestable.

Types of Investigation which Affect the Police’s Powers of Investigation 

Arrestable cases are those in which the police can arrest without a warrant of arrest.  The Criminal Procedure Code is the statute which governs all the police’s powers of investigation. It mandates the police to investigate the facts of the case as soon as practicable, and try to find the offender, arresting him if appropriate.

Conversely, the police are not duty-bound to conduct investigations in non-arrestable cases, as they are conferred the discretion to investigate or refer the informant to a magistrate, or await an order to investigate. The informant refers to the person who gave information about an offence to an authorised person, which includes a police officer.

In arrestable cases, police officers will enjoy special investigative powers. These powers include the power to issue a written order for the production of any document or thing where it is necessary or desirable for the investigation. If the court has reason to believe that said person will refuse to adhere to the order, the court can issue a search warrant to retrieve the document or thing.

The court can also issue a search warrant if it is unknown who possesses the document or thing, or if the court considers that a general or specific search or inspection will aid the investigation.

Other Powers of Investigation 

Other powers include the power to require the attendance of witnesses. Failure of attendance may result in the the police officer reporting the matter to the Magistrate, who may issue:

  1. a warrant to order the person to attend;
  2. the power to orally examine them and record their statements; and
  3. the power to search places for documents or things necessary for the investigation.

These powers may be exercised for non-arrestable cases, but they will require an order of the Public Prosecutor or Magistrate.

Accused Person’s Rights During Arrest 

How arrests have to be conducted are stipulated by the Criminal Procedure Code as well.

For arrests without a warrant, an accused person can only be detained for a maximum period of 48 hours from the time of the arrest.

For arrests with a warrant, the accused person must be brought to court without unnecessary delay. For any type of arrest, Article 9(3) of the Constitution entitles the accused to know the basis of his arrest. It also allows him to consult and be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice.

However, it is crucial to note that the suspect is not entitled to be informed of the constitutional right to legal counsel. Moreover, the time of access to legal counsel is uncertain, since the police do not have to give the suspect access to legal advice upon arrest, or before they take his statements.

In fact, Article 9(3) of the Constitution is observed as long as the suspect is given access to legal counsel “within a reasonable time after his arrest”. Cases such as Public Prosecutor v Leong Siew Chor [2006] 3 SLR(R) 290 and Jasbir Singh v Public Prosecutor [1994] 1 SLR(R) 782show that a delay of 19 days in the former and 2 weeks in the latter were deemed reasonable by the court.

The Court of Appeal case of James Raj s/o Arokiasamy v Public Prosecutor [2014] 3 SLR 750 reiterated that the right of access to counsel would be one available within a “reasonable time”, and that an allowance for police investigations and procedure was meant to be taken incorporated in this timespan.

Taking of Statements

The Criminal Procedure Code also provides for the taking of statements by the police, and it appears to prescribe two types of statements.

Witness statements

The first type of statement is governed by section 22 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which allows the police to examine orally any person whom he believes to have knowledge of the facts and circumstances of the case under investigation.

The examined person is bound to state the truth about the facts of the case, but the accused need not mention things that might expose him to a criminal charge. Such a statement made by the person is the witness statement.

These statements can be taken anytime during the police investigation. The procedural requirements of this statement are as follows: the statement made by the person must be in writing, must be read to him, and must be signed by him.

Cautioned statements

The second type of statements taken would be Cautioned Statements. This generally occurs after the arrest of the accused, before the accused is formally charged in court.

The procedure regarding such statements is as such:

  1. the investigating officer has to officially set out the charge the accused is facing and explain it to him.
  2. The accused will then be asked if he wishes to say anything regarding the charge.
  3. Anything said from then on in answer to the charge, or any silence or refusal to make a statement, must be recorded by the investigating officer.

This is the Cautioned Statement, which will have to be in writing and read back to the accused, who will have to sign it. It is compulsory for a copy of the statement to be given to the accused.

It is important to note that if the accused does not give such a statement and states his defence for the first time at trial, this might make the judge less likely to believe him at trial. Nonetheless, how material such omissions are in trial ultimately depends on all the circumstances of the case.

Inadmissibility of statements in court

It is important to note that any of such statements will be inadmissible in court if they were obtained under any inducement, threat or promise.

Do not panic if you have to undergo a police investigation. The police’s powers are clearly regulated by law. It is important to know your constitutional rights during such an investigation, such as being told of the basis of your arrest, along with access to legal counsel.

However, when you receive access to legal counsel is uncertain, and depends on the length police investigations and procedures.

This article was written by Tay Rui Lin

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