Jumping bail will be made an offence as part of proposed tighter bail conditions to be unveiled next week, said Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on Thursday (22 February).
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a visit to the Police Cantonment Complex, Shanmugam, who is also Law Minister, said that the new bail conditions are among the changes to the Criminal Procedure Code that will be tabled in Parliament. The next Parliament sittings will take place from 27 February to 9 March.
Shanmugam was making reference to former City Harvest Church leader Chew Eng Han, 57, who was arrested on Wednesday morning after he attempted to flee to Malaysia on a sampan while on bail. Chew was charged in court on Thursday for the escape attempt along with an accomplice.
The minister said, however, that the issue of tighter bail conditions had been on his mind for some time and was not a result of Chew’s case.
Noting that some time would have passed from when an offender is charged in court and when his case is heard again, Shanmugam said, “From a public good perspective, we don’t want to keep people in remand. We want to try and help them lead their lives outside until the case is disposed of and the verdict is given.”
He added that the law will provide for whether bail should be given or denied.
Expecting the police to keep track of the movements of thousands of people who are out on bail would be “too much of a burden”, he said, adding that the police should be focused on counter-terrorism and solving crimes.
In Chew’s case, it would have seemed “exceptionally harsh” to deny him bail over the Chinese New Year period, said the Minister.
“Usually when…it’s one of the festivals and the (convicted) person (who is on bail) is celebrating it…the practice has been to take a give and take approach and allow them to spend the holiday with their family and then come in. It’s the spirit of humanity, but then there are people who will then take advantage of that,” he said.
Shanmugam added that the Ministry of Home Affairs is also looking into electronic tagging of people who are on bail so that they can be monitored.