I. The Investigation Process In Singapore

1. At all times of investigation, the police attempt to gather sufficient evidence to establish an offence. Possible forms of evidence include physical evidence, photographs and video recordings, forensic reports and statements given by witnesses and the accused.

2. When the police have gathered sufficient information, it will pass the matter to the Attorney General, for the public prosecutors to decide whether to bring charges against the accused.

3. In Singapore, the investigation process can be seen to be three-staged:

(a) First, persons are questioned by the police if the police consider them to be able to provide useful information in relation to an offence.

(b) Second, if there is sufficient evidence, the police will arrest an accused in relation to an arrestable offence. The police might subsequently request witnesses to execute bonds for appearance to give evidence against the accused.

(c) Lastly, a person is charged when a “cautioned statement” is read to him, in that the police will inform the person of the charge being prosecuted with, and caution the person to raise any fact in relation to his defence at this stage.

4. We discuss the following in sequence below:
(a) The police’s power vis-a-vis witnesses;

(b) The police’s power vis-a-vis the accused in an arrestable offence; and

(c) Practical points to note for a person facing investigation.

II. Power Of Police Vis-A-Vis Witnesses

A. The Police’s Power to Require Attendance of Witnesses to Provide Information

5. In Singapore, the police have the power to require the attendance of witnesses to provide information in an investigation pursuant to Section 21 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Chapter 68) (the “CPC”), which states that:

“Power to require attendance of witnesses

(1) In conducting an investigation under this Part, a police officer may issue a written order requiring anyone within the limits of Singapore, who appears to be acquainted with any of the facts and circumstances of the case, to attend before him, and that person must attend as required.

(2) If that person fails to attend as required, the police officer may report the matter to a Magistrate who may then, in his discretion, issue a warrant ordering the person to attend.

6. It is highlighted that two requirements need to be fulfilled for the police to have the power to require attendance of witnesses:

(a) The person must be within the limits of Singapore, i.e. he must be physically present in Singapore; and

(b) There must be reasons to indicate that the person appears to be acquainted with some facts and circumstances of the case.

7. Once the requirements are met, the police can issue a written order to require a person to attend to investigation. A failure to comply may result in a warrant of arrest be issued against the person.

8. Thus, when a person in Singapore receives an order from the police requesting him to attend an interview to facilitate an investigation, he should make arrangements to attend it.

9. Even though lawyers are not allowed in the statement-taking process during police investigation, a person should keep a proper record of statements given to the police for the purpose of obtaining legal advice. A person should note down as closely as possible what was told to the police during an interview.

B. The Police’s Power to Require a Bond for Appearance of Witnesses in Arrestable Offences

10. Further, upon the arrest of a person in an arrestable offence, the police have the power to require that witnesses execute a bond to appear before a court and give evidence against the accused. This is provided for in Section 111 of the CPC, which states, inter alia, that,

“Bond for appearance of complainant and witnesses

(1) If, during or after an investigation under Part IV, a police officer is of the opinion that there is sufficient evidence to justify starting or continuing criminal proceedings for an arrestable offence against a person, he may require any complainant and any or all other persons who may be familiar with the case, to execute a bond to appear before a court and give evidence in the case against the accused.

11. It is notable that if a person so requested refuses to execute the bond, the police officer is required under Section 111(3) of the CPC to report the matter to court, who has the power to issue a warrant of summons to secure the attendance of the witness to give evidence against the accused.

12. This imposes a duty on a witness, even not being the accused, to attend before the court and give evidence against the accused. If a person executes a bond and does not turn up at a court session without valid reasons, the bond will be forfeited.

III. Power Of Police Vis-A-Vis The Accused In An Arrestable Offence

13. The CPC prescribes a list of “arrestable offences”, in which a police officer is allowed to arrest an accused without a warrant. Unless otherwise specified, the general rule is that offences with a maximum punishment being imprisonment of less than three (3) years are not arrestable.

A. The Police’s Power of Arrest

14. If the police have received sufficient information to reasonably suspect a person being concerned or involved in an arrestable offence, a police officer has the power under Section 61(1)(a) of the CPC to arrest the person without a warrant.

15. Having done that, Section 67 and read with Section 68 of the CPC requires the police officer to, without unnecessary delay, send the person arrested before a Magistrate’s Court within 48 hours (exclusive of the time necessary for the journey from the place of arrest to the Magistrate’s Court), or release the person on bail or unconditionally.

16. Eventually, when the police believe that there are reasonable grounds to show that a person has committed an offence, the police has the power to serve a notice on the offender to attend court pursuant to Section 110(1) of CPC.

B. The Police’s Power of Search and Seizure

17. Further, if a person is arrested, the police may search the person and the person’s belongings as well as any place the police believe may contain evidence of the offence pursuant to Section 78(2) of the CPC. They can seize and retain any intended evidence, including the person’s electronic devices.

18. On top of that, a police officer may also seize or prohibit the disposal of or dealing with of any property in relation to any offence pursuant to Section 35(1) of the CPC. This includes property which has been used or intended to be used to commit an offence, and property which represents the fruits or traceable proceeds of a crime (Public Prosecutor v Rajendar Prasad Rai [2018] 3 SLR 204; [2017] SGHC 132). Having said that, a court application can be made pursuant to Section 35(8) of CPC for the release of the property, if the release is necessary for payment of certain types of basic expenses.

IV. Practical Points To Note For A Person Facing Investigation

19. The investigation process could take a substantial period of time, especially in incidents of potential criminal activities of a complicated nature involving multiple parties. There is no time limit by which an investigation has to conclude by.

20. Moreover, even if the police have stopped taking statements from a person, it does not necessarily mean that the investigation has been stopped. The examination of other evidence could take some time, and the case is not necessarily closed.

21. Further, even after a person has been charged, investigations could still continue while the matter is in court, as there is nothing preventing the charge from being amended or withdrawn until the trial has commenced.

22. Accordingly, it is necessary to bear in mind that at all times before the conclusion of trial, there should be no discussion of the incidents of potential criminal activities among potential witnesses. This is to avoid any allegations of collusion on the witnesses, which can affect the weight and even admissibility of the testimony given by the witnesses. Even worse, such a discussion might be seen as an attempt to exert undue pressure on witnesses to commit perjury, and might amount to an offence under Section 204A of the Penal Code for obstructing, preventing, perverting or defeating the course of justice.

Tito Isaac
Managing Partner
+65 6730 6011
[email protected]
Chong Yi Mei
Senior Associate
Dispute Resolution
+65 6730 6017
[email protected]
For more information, please contact Tito Isaac & Co LLP
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