Singapore's criminal court system does not have a codified plea bargaining procedure. Negotiations between the prosecution and the defense for consensual case disposition are typically conducted under two programs: The Attorney-Chambers' General's Criminal Case Management Scheme (CCMS) and the State Court's Criminal Case Resolution (CCR) program.
Early attempts to resolve criminal cases usually begin with an informal plea negotiating procedure between the prosecution and the defense, known as CCMS. The program permits prosecutors and defense attorneys to discuss the case candidly and openly. They may examine the merits of a guilty plea and restrict the topics in dispute during the CCMS sessions. Any judges do not attend CCMS sessions.
CCR went into effect on October 10, 2011, to provide a neutral platform for parties to debate and examine the prospect of an early settlement of criminal cases without a trial, supervised by a judge. The CCR judge will not be appointed to hear the case as the trial judge if the issue remains unresolved at CCR and goes to trial. The judge's involvement in CCR sessions is facilitative rather than evaluative.
In suitable cases, the judge conducting the CCR sessions may consider indicating a punishment. However, to prevent the appearance of coercion or pressure on the accused person to plead guilty, a sentencing indication would only be considered if the accused person requested it.
PROCEDURE OF PLEA BARGAINING IN SINGAPORE
The CCR Judge will support plea negotiations by serving as a neutral mediator by providing sentence guidelines to assist the accused in determining if a plea deal is in his best interests.
While the CCMS and CCR Programs include features of plea bargaining, Singapore has no “official” plea bargaining structure.
In contrast, in the United States, plea bargaining must follow a formal legal structure outlined in the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. For example, plea agreements in the United States must be written out in a standard "plea agreement" and public.
When accepting or rejecting a plea deal, the US courts must follow specific processes.
If the matter proceeds to trial, additional clear guidelines control the admissibility of remarks made during plea negotiations.
In 2010, then-Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong voiced worry that moreover 40% of criminal trials "cracked," meaning the accused pleads guilty or the cases are dropped, wasting trial days. He noted that introducing plea bargaining as a prototype plan of the CCR program was one method to reduce the number of fractured trials.
A year later, he requested the then-AG, Mr. Sundaresh Menon, to look at plea bargaining. He indicated he would support it if proper protections were in place to preserve the criminal justice system's integrity.
Mr. Steven Chong, the incoming Attorney General, said in 2013 that a suggested framework for plea bargaining had been submitted to the Law Ministry for consideration following talks with stakeholders and research visits abroad.
Law Minister K. Shanmugam said in 2014 that his ministry and the AGC were looking at creating a formalized plea bargaining framework. The Law Ministry said yesterday that its evaluation, which was conducted in collaboration with relevant authorities, found no fundamental modifications to the current system where desired or required. The fact that plea bargaining systems exist in Singapore shows that they are well-received by the courts, prosecution, and accused.
Some attorneys, however, want an "institutionalized" plea bargaining procedure that is recognized as part of the open court process, as it is in the United States. According to lawyer Amolat Singh, much hinges on the prosecutor in the present procedure. "Some are more forthright, while others keep their cards close to their chests," he observed. Some judges dislike being notified that the prosecution and defense have reached a sentencing agreement, according to a criminal lawyer with more than 20 years of experience who did not want to be identified.
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