MHA seeks extension of law allowing detention of suspected criminals without trial

(Yahoo News Singapore file photo)

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has asked Parliament to extend by five years the operation of a law that allows suspected criminals to be detained without trial.

The Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) (Amendment) Bill was introduced for its first reading in Parliament on Tuesday (9 January). MHA said that it sought to provide greater clarity in the scope of the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act (CLTPA), and clarify the powers of the Minister under the Act.

The Act provides for the maintenance of public safety, peace and good order through the detention and supervision of persons associated with activities of a criminal nature, via the issuance of Detention Orders (DOs) or PSOs (Police Supervision Orders),” said an MHA press release on Tuesday (9 January).

It added that the powers under the Act have been used “judiciously”, and only in cases where prosecution in Court was not possible, for example, when witnesses were unwilling to give evidence in Court due to fear of reprisals.

Background to the Act

The Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act or CLTPA  allows for the detention of suspected criminals without trial, if it is in the interests of  “public safety, peace and good order”. Individuals can be detained up to a year and this has to be reviewed annually.

The Act lapses every five years unless it is renewed. It was promulgated in 1955 and has been extended 13 times, most recently in October 2013.

Among other applications, it has been used to deal with people associated with secret societies as well as organised criminal groups such as drug trafficking and loansharking syndicates.

The Bill seeks to extend the CLTPA for another five years with effect from 21 October 2019. Its goal is also to restrict the powers of the Minister by clarifying the scope of criminal activities under the Act. 

Among the types of criminal activity that the Home Affairs Minister can order detentions or police supervision for are unlicensed moneylending, drug trafficking, murder and human trafficking.

“The Act remains an essential and effective legal instrument in our fight against secret societies, drug traffickers and syndicated crimes, and continues to be relevant for the maintenance of public safety, peace and good order in Singapore,” said the release.

It stressed that the Act also contains substantial safeguards for the issuance of DOs and PSOs, such as requiring the Public Prosecutor’s consent before any such orders can be issued by the Minister.

Each DO and PSO is also reviewed by an independent Advisory Committee, which comprises prominent private citizens including Justices of the Peace, former judges and senior lawyers.

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