Since Singapore’s founding as a British colony in 1819, our legal system has been constantly evolving to meet the rapidly changing needs of the island city. This evolution and the people behind it are introduced in this website for researchers, students and members of the public to conveniently access information on Singapore’s legal history.
The information on these pages is drawn from the book Essays in Singapore Legal History. Content is arranged according to themes, and not in chronological order.
1978: Lawyer’s Law - The government has given notice that it will introduce legislation to tighten regulations on the conduct of lawyers. The Law Minister E W Barker has revealed the salient points of a Bill for the next Parliament proposing amendments to the Legal Profession Act. First, voting will be made compulsory for members at elections of the Law Society. Second, there is to be a restructuring of the society’s council to ensure that the various sections of the profession are more adequately represented. Third, the council will have greater powers to supervise the keeping of accounts by solicitors’ firms. The rationale behind these proposals is not hard to fathom. The minister himself gave away no secrets when he referred to the belief that disciplinary control in the profession is “somewhat deficient” in more ways than one. And the government’s moves are not surprising in the light of the Prime Minister’s speech to the Law Society in 1977.
1984: Lawyers must ‘go global’ to keep up - Lawyers must have a more international outlook if they are to keep pace with Singapore’s growth in the business world. This means they must offer more sophisticated services needed by the international businessmen in Singapore. “The more significant development for lawyers will result from Singapore’s open economy and its close inter-relationships with the rest of the world.” The advice came from chairman of Oversea Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC) Yong Pung How, who was speaking at the Braddell Memorial Lecture, organised by the law faculty of the National University of Singapore. “The competition, which lawyers here will face, will therefore be confined no longer to the shores of Singapore, and the Singapore lawyer must learn to take a closer, harder look at his counterparts in Hongkong, Tokyo, London and New York,” he said. “That is where the real competition will lie and it is competition against which not even legislation can afford Singapore lawyers any protection,” said Mr Yong, a lawyer by training.
1965: New law to protect animals - A new law which will help the government in the prevention of illegal traffic I wild animals and birds came into operation today. This law requires persons engaged in the import, export and shipment of these animals and birds to take out licences. This is the Animals and Birds Ordinance 1965, which was passed at the last session of the Legislative Assembly. A Ministry of National Development statement said the new legislation would prevent and control the movement of captured wild animals and birds through Singapore, which is strategically situated in Southeast Asia.
1972: Water to cost more for those who are wasteful - Water will cost more for those who use it wastefully when a new tariff for domestic consumption is introduced in January 1973 – not to increase revenue but to prevent waste. The new tariff, which should not hit careful consumers, will provide for a low basic rate for consumption “to meet the ordinary domestic needs of a family”. Beyond this basic quota the rates will progressively increase. Announcing this in an addendum to the President’s speech at the opening of Parliament, the government also gave notice that it intends to take more effective and possibly temporarily unpopular” measure to tackle the problem of pollution. The Addendum dealt with the Ministry of the Environment.
1975: Women in Singapore ahead in fight for equal rights - Singapore women, says a “male chauvinist” MP, have achieved their rights as equal citizens, employees and partners in marriage “to a much greater extent than can be said of women of some countries”. The MP for Chai Chee Haji Sha’ari Tadin, Senior Parliamentary Secretary (Culture), said this at the opening of a YMCA seminar at Palmer Road on the Role and Rights of Women in Singapore. Haji Sha’ari – “male chauvinist by sex but not by attitudes and definition” – was directing his address at male members of the seminar. He said: “The working population of women in Singapore is among the highest in this part of the world. Recently tremendous advances have been made in respect of women’s participation in the labour force because there is no physical or legal barrier in Singapore to prevent a woman from pursuing any career she chooses.” He pointed out that the influx of Division 1 civil service women officers has increased by 100 per cent since 1969.Haji Sha’ari said: “Singapore women did not make headlines as their Western counterparts did in burning bras and participating in freedom marches.” He suggested two reasons why this could have been so – “that our women are discriminating enough to realise that these are negative aspects of a more positive movement” and “that Singapore’s women do not feel the need to assert their rights and demands to be treated equally with the male sex”.
1982: Case to keep closer tabs on ads - All advertisements will be monitored by the Consumers Association of Singapore when it has enough staff. It will point out misleading ads and those making claims that cannot be backed up to the regulating body for ads, the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore. The authority can ask advertisers to modify or withdraw them. Mr Ivan Baptist, Case executive secretary, said the idea would take some time to implement because Case would need full-time staff to monitor all ads that appear. At present the advertising body acts largely on complaints – over 200 so far since it was set up in 1976. Closer tabs by Case would make advertisers more careful. Mr Baptist was elaborating on a point made during the first consumer phone-in on radio. He was asked on Your Host Tonight, a consumer series that has a dozen more weeks to go, how a consumer could know whether the “usual price” in a cheap sale ad was really the original price. Host Mike Ellery said that in Britain, stores would have to charge that price for at least 28 days before the sale. Among the callers during the half-hour, one asked if more laws could be passed to give Case more teeth.
1967: Singapore important market, says QC for Beechams - Mr John Patrick Graham, the London QC for Beecham Group Ltd of Britain, submitted in the High Court that it would be a travesty of justice if Beechams were to fail here in their motion against Sime Darby (Singapore) Ltd and Bristol-Myers Co. of New York. The legal battle in Singapore, according to the QC, is part of a worldwide contest involving patent rights of semi-synthetic penicillin between Beechams and Bristol-Myers. Beechams is asking in the motion for an interlocutory injunction against Sime Darby and Bristol-Myers to restrain them till judgement or “further order” from advertising, offering for sale, selling or supplying an antibiotic known as “hetacillin” or any like preparation. This issue had been raised before the Appeal Court of England, resulting recently in Beechams being granted a similar injunction against Bristol-Myers.
1970: Expired “L” licences are not covered by insurance: Court - Any “L” scooter rider who rides his machine with an expired provisional driving licence is clearly in breach of his insurance, Chief Justice Wee Chong Jin ruled in High Court. The ruling, given in a “special case”, is binding on all Traffic Magistrates – removing all ambiguity and doubt over the exact position in law of a learner-scooterist caught in such situation. The ruling, in effect, gives the green light to traffic courts here to resume hearing of all insurance charges against learner riders with expired PDL although the policies were ostensibly “still in force” at that material time. The case has been held up since eight weeks ago after two Traffic Magistrates, Mr S Chandran Mohan and Mr Leing Keng Thai, had arrived in conflicting decisions on points of law governing the insurance issue. In his decision, CJ Wee affirmed Mr Mohan’s in convicting the learner-scooterist of riding without third party insurance. which was recovered from his trouser pocket and if the trial judge had no alternative but the pass the death penalty.
1989: Bill to keep religion, politics separate ‘soon’ - Legislation to ensure that religion is kept out of political arena is likely to be introduced at the next sitting of Parliament, Law and Home Affairs Minister S Jayakumar disclosed. The Bill will then be referred to a Select Committee to give Singaporeans an opportunity to share their views on the subject. Announcing this, Prof Jayakumar noted that the President, in his Address to Parliament in January, had reiterated the Government’s policy that religious groups must not get themselves involved in the political process. The President also gave notice that the Government intended to spell out clear and unequivocal ground rules that religious groups would be expected to follow scrupulously because if they were violate, “even with the best of intentions, our political stability will be imperilled”.
1977: Gun boy’s appeal rejected - A 14-year-old boy, who was sentenced to death for unlawful possession of a pistol and ammunition by the Penang High Court, failed in his appeal against sentence and conviction in the Federal Court. He was the first juvenile to be charged and convicted under the Internal Security Act, which carries the mandatory death penalty. The boy was found guilty by Justice Fred Arulanandom on Aug 25 for unlawful possession of a Browning pistol and 20 rounds at a coffeeshop in Prang Road at 9pm on Feb 14. He was, at the time of offence, a Form One pupil of Heng Ee High School in Penang. His counsel Karpal Singh, who appeared with Mr S T Lee, said he would file a notice of appeal to the Privvy Council. The boy’s appeal was heard by the Lord President Tun Mohamed Suffian, who sat with Chief Justice Tan Sri SS Gill and Justice Chang Min Tat. Eight major grounds were forwarded by his counsel.Tun Suffian, in dismissing the appeal, said the two main points related to the possession charge and sentence were whether the boy knew of the contents of the parcel which was recovered from his trouser pocket and if the trial judge had no alternative but the pass the death penalty.
1984: More top pupils go for law: Important to have constant infusion of skills, says Jaya –More of our brighter students are taking up law at the National University of Singapore, but still more are needed, Prof S. Jayakumar said. The country has to have a “constant and continuous infusion of skills and talents in all sectors”, said the Labour and Second Law and Home Affairs Minister.Because the profession is an important pillar supporting Singapore’s role as a banking and finance centre, “every possible step that can help add the skills and talent available in our legal profession must be taken”, he said.
1977: Women call for change in the income tax law – Some women in Singapore are proposing that the income tax law be amended to provide tax relief for women who, for certain reasons, have to maintain their husbands. Under the Income Tax Act, a husband may claim “wife relief” for supporting his non-earning spouse. But there is no provision for “husband relief” should a wife have to either temporarily or permanently maintain her husband. There have been reported cases where a wife has had to upkeep her husband because of his ill-health and inability to work. Also, in instances where husbands are supported temporarily during their studies abroad by working wives. In these cases, wives will be on the losing end if they, through ignorance, fail to claim the tax relief that is allowable for a non-earning spouse.
1988: Why ex-presidents of Law Society won’t qualify for Senate – MP for Chua Chu Kang Tang See Chim asked why former presidents of the Law Society are not eligible for membership to the Senate of SAL, unlike former Attorney-Generals and ex-Deans of the NUS Law Faculty.
Mr Tan said that if it is thought that some former presidents of the Law Society do not qualify, then such disqualification could be spelt out, as indeed judges who were removed are disqualified from membership of the Senate under Clause 5, Sub-clause 4. Nevertheless, Mr Tang, a lawyer, said he supported the Bill and said he was happy to note that SAL would be provided with facilities, such as a library and common rooms.
He also expressed the hope that with SAL, the standards of professional ethics, which "appears to be weak" in recent years, would be raised.
1965: Independent Singapore Bill – The Bill was passed by both Houses of Parliament, giving Singapore full independence. Called the Constitution and Malaysia (Singapore Amendment) Act 1965, it contains provisions including these:
- Singapore shall leave Malaysia and become an independent and sovereign state and nation separate from and independent of Malaysia;
- Singapore ceases to be a State of Malaysia on Aug 9, 1965, which will henceforth be called Singapore Day and will on becoming an independent and sovereign state and nation to be recognized as such by the government of Malaysia and accordingly the Constitution of Malaysia and Malaysia Act will ceased to have effect in Singapore, except for certain provisions; and
- The Singapore government shall on and after Singapore Day retain its executive authority and legislative powers to make laws with respect to those matters provided for in the Constitution.
1986: Muslims excluded from organ donation law – Muslims will be excluded from the proposed law on organ donation, said Health Minister Richard Hu. This was decided after consultation with the Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (Muis). But for purposes of receiving transplant, Muslims who opt to join the existing scheme under the Medical (Therapy, Education and Research) Act, will be treated on the same basis as non-Muslims, who have not opted out under proposed legislation.
Dr Hu, replying to Mr Chiam See Tong (Potong Pasir), said that the government is in favour of the legislation and is finalising the details. When ready, the Bill will be introduced in Parliament. The legislation will make provisions for those who do not lwish to donate their organs after death to register their objections.
Safeguards will be incorporated to ensure that no organ is improperly removed.
1968: Citizenship law altered for those born abroad of Singaporean fathers – Citizenship by descent can now be claimed by those born outside Singapore of fathers who are citizens of the Republic, applying irrespective of whether the father is a citizen by birth or by registration. This amendment of the Constitution was approved by Parliament, together with lesser amendments on citizenship matters.
In presenting the Bill for the second and third reading, Mr S Rajaratnam, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Labour explained: “In the case where the father is a Singapore citizen by birth, Article 35, as amended, would allow his child the right to Singapore citizenship by descent. In the case where the father is a Singapore citizen by registration, his child may claim citizenship by descent only if he does not acquire the citizenship of that country in which he was actually born by reason of his birth there.”
He said in both cases, the parents are required to register the child within one year of its birth with the government or with the Singapore mission in the country of the child’s birth. But the government reserves the right to grant permission to a person claiming citizenship by descent to register his birth when this has not been done within the one year prescribed.
1987: Inhalant abuse killed 20 in past seven years – Bill to outlaw glue-sniffing introduced –Glue-sniffing moved a step towards being an offence punishable under the law when a Bill to being this about was introduced in Parliament. Underlying the seriousness of the problem, the Minister of State (Home Affairs), Dr Lee Boon Yang, said some 20 deaths related to inhalant abuse were reported during the past seven years and the problem now needed immediate attention.
When the Intoxicating Substances Bill becomes law, suspected glue-sniffers will be subjected to blood tests. First offenders will be placed under supervision and those who break the supervision orders will be detained for compulsory treatment and rehabilitation for periods up to a year.
Dr Lee disclosed that the number of first-timers had been increasing and according to a survey, 75.3 per cent of the inhalant abusers were school dropouts and 84.1 per cent were below 20 years old.
1970: Will crippled robber be caned? Unlikely, say the legal experts –A 12-stroke caning order imposed last week by a district judge on a crippled young robber does not necessarily mean that it must be carried out even in the absence of an appeal.
Legal sources say that there are provisions in the Criminal Procedure Code governing the execution of a caning sentence. Caning can only be carried out in the prison if the prisoner has been medically certified fit to receive it. He has to be examined by a medical officer before each and every stroke can be inflicted.
Such cases have happened and have been reported back to the judges who ordered the caning in the first instance and judges have the discretion to lift the caning sentence either wholly or partially, depending on the circumstances.
1975: Architects seek new code of conduct – The Singapore Institute of Architects has called for a new code of professional conduct to be embodied in “long-awaited and overdue” new Architects Act when it was introduced.
Obsolete clauses in the present legislation should also be updated and changed, it said in an editorial in the latest issue of the SIAJ, a publication of the institute.
The editorial also expressed the hope that the code will take into consideration local practice conditions. It said it would be of interest to note that the Royal Institute of British Architects Council has recently endorsed a proposal for a revised code based on principles, rules and guidance notes.
"In a fast developing country like ours, the practice of architecture, or any profession for that matter, it is likely to be affected by changing conditions and circumstance within society."
The editorial suggested that until the new legislation is enacted, the institute might review its own code with a view to streamlining it and making it consistent with the current changing situation in professional practice.
1968: High Court powers to deal with investment disputes –Powers are to be given to the High Court – in particular the Chief Justice and two other judges – to deal with disputes arising out of contracts between a state and nationals of other states.
This follows Singapore’s endorsement of the International Convention of the Settlement Investment Disputes States and Nationals of Other States opened for signature in Washington on March 18, 1965.
A Bill giving the High Court powers to deal with these disputes is now before Parliament, and is known as the Arbitration (International Investment Disputes) Bill. The convention establishes an international organisation, called the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes to provide facilities for conciliation and arbitration of such disputes.
1975: Give court power to cane young offenders: Research man – An NTUC research officer suggested that the Juvenile Court be given the power to cane young offenders. Mr M Chandran, who made the call, also recommends that the cane to be brought back to the classroom.
“Crimes of violence and rape are conspicuously on the increase in Singapore,” he said. “Young offenders should be taught early the full impact of their offences and not wait to learn when they are over 16 to be treated like any other citizen, not entitled then to any special privileges before the law.
“Although the Ministry of Education has reaffirmed its ban on the use of the cane unless handled by the principal or with his permission, it is, in my view, that in addition to bringing the cane back into the classroom, the Juvenile Court should also be empowered to cane young offenders.”
1968: Death damages: Now a new law is passed – Parliament approved a Bill to stop courts of law from deducting pension or gratuity from death compensations. The House passed the second reading of the Civil Law (Amendment) Bill, moved by Law Minister EW Barker.
The minister explained that this move was necessary because dependents in such cases often suffered hardships and were at a disadvantage when compared to dependents of a deceased who was not entitled to pension or gratuity.
The compensations are only in respect of death caused by the wrongful act, neglect or default of another.
Mr Barker also told the House that it was not difficult to appreciate the position of a disadvantaged dependent if it was remembered that “a person entitled to receive a pension normally earns a reduced salary during his working life to compensate for the pension element payable when he ceases to work”.
1985: The Straits Times says: Plugging the legal gap – A system of justice that requires advocates to appear before its arbiters or lawyers before its judges, must ensure that those brought before its courts have access to lawyers to be a proper machine of justice. For many, money to pay legal fees is the greatest obstacle and consequently they do without them. The scales of justice must then tilt in favour of those who can afford these legal services. This is the reality in countries where lawyers operate only within the private sector and where no national legal service, funded by tax or some form of insurance scheme, exists. Many in Singapore appear to go without legal advice when involved in disputes outside courts.
To prevent the obvious injustice of an imbalance between parties, when one is represented and the other not, aid and representation are being provided by the state in two cases. First, when a person is accused of capital offence, a lawyer will be assigned and all costs will be borne by the state. Second, in civil matters, the impecunious have been able to obtain advice from the government-run Legal Aid Bureau. Beyond that, voluntary organisations, like the Singapore Muslim Missionary Society and the Singapore Association of Women Lawyers have taken much of the burden of creating equality before the law by giving free services.
1967: Harassment: New law for arrest of moneylenders – Under new amendments, which have been introduced in Parliament to the Moneylenders Law, a moneylender may be arrested if he watches or besets the residence or place of business or employment of a debtor with a view to harassing or intimidating him.
The Moneylender (Amendment) Bill also adds new provisions which are designed to tighten up sections of the existing law which “have not proven fully effective”. The Bill adds a new penalty: The offending moneylender will be unable to sue for any balance due to him under the note, and the court will endorse the conviction on the note. The Bill also requires the moneylender to make the loan by crossed cheque only, with the words “Licensed moneylender” endorsed below the signature of the moneylender.
1986: Keeping condo tenants in line – A Bill introduced in Parliament recently will give management corporations of condominiums and apartments more powers to run their estates and discipline not only errant owners but also recalcitrant tenants.
One of the main features of the Land Title (Strata) (Amendment) Bill is that where, up to now, only the owners are punished for breaking rules, occupiers or tenants, too, will be made liable when it becomes law – and the sting should be felt where it hurt most: The Pocket.
The proposed amendment is certain to be welcomed by management corporations long frustrated by their inability to act against unruly or inconsiderate tenants who make a nuisance of themselves.
One of the proposed amendments provides for a sinking fund to be collected by a management corporation but does not stipulate what the minimum or maximum sum should be. It appears that the individual corporations will be left to determine the size of the fund, which comes in handy when costly repairs or repainting of an entire estate have to be paid for.
1967: Mob action on the increase in Singapore – Statistics given in the Singapore Parliament showed that there was a steady increase in the number of illegal processions and demonstrations during the first six months of the year. To a question by a backbencher P Govindasamy, the Minister of State for Defence Wee Toon Boon said there were 49 illegal processions and demonstrations January and June.
Mr Wee said that as a result of Police action, a total of 505 people were arrested, 432 charged in court and 17 expelled from the country. Despite violence by the mob, the Police showed great restraint, he added.
The various illegal actions had resulted in the destruction of 11 sets of traffic lights as well as damage to Hill Street Police Station, the central fire station, police vehicles and the defacement of bus shelters.
1986: Postgraduate course for lawyers – Practising lawyers can sign up for a new postgraduate course at the National University of Singapore this year.
The Diploma in Business Law course, which will begin in August, is also meant for those working in government departments, international corporation, banks and other financial institutions.
Classes for the course, which may be taken over one or two academic years will be held in the evenings.
1985: A draft Bill to tighten up the securities industry in Singapore has been prepared by officials at the Attorney General’s Chambers. The draft of the proposed Amendments to the Securities Act of 1973 has already been circulated to “all interested bodies” for comment.
Details of the proposed amendments are unavailable but it is understood that if legislation were enacted, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) would have greater control of certain areas in the securities industry.
The amendments have not yet gone before the Cabinet but it is understood that the Finance Minister Richard Hu will be studying the proposed changes next week. It is not clear when work on the proposed amendments was started but it appears to have been initiated by the need for a Bill to ensure that the administrative authority for the securities industry would be the MAS and not the Registrar of Companies, as it was previously.
1975: The news the week before brought the problem of juvenile delinquency into sharp focus again in Singapore. A report, headlined “The little heroin runners”, about boys as young as nine being used by drug gangs to ferry heroin. The same report said that boys were also employed by gangsters in Chinatown to act as scouts or lookouts outside gambling dens.
Boys in their teens or younger have been involved in illegal activities for years, extorting money from motorists who park their cars in public places, for instance. Police action and the introduction of paid parking even at night have driven away most of the jaga-kreta boys.
But youthful involvement in crime has taken a turn for the worse. The Committee on Crime and Delinquency report last August confirmed not only an alarming increase in unlawful acts Some action is being taken, notably amendments to labour legislation to lower from 16 to 14 and from 14 to 12 the minimum statutory ages for industrial work and for apprentice training, so that school dropouts can find gainful employment.
1965: A land law to re-house squatters – Additional provisions would be made in the Land Acquisition (Amendment No. 2) Bill to enable the government to acquire land under private developers for rehousing of squatters who are Singapore citizens. This was announced by the Minister for Law EW Barker in the Legislative Assembly.
He said in order to remove any doubts on the validity of such legislation, the State Advocate General’s Chambers had advised it would be necessary for the Malaysian Parliament to exempt such a Bill from the operation of Article 12 in the Constitution.
This provides that “no law shall provide for the compulsory acquisition or use of property without adequate compensation”.
1974: Tougher line on criminals – A tougher line against criminals, repeat offenders and illegal immigrants and segregation of hardcore prisoners are among the recommendations of a 10-man Prisons Reorganisation Committee accepted by the government.
Other recommendations include restitution for property and anti-social offences, better pay for hardworking inmates, and the formation of a statutory board to run the Prisons Industries on a commercial basis.
The committee, headed by Permanent Secretary (Home Affairs) Tay Seow Huah, has also proposed community service in lieu of imprisonment for certain offences and the expansion of the remand prison and other temporary measures, pending the completion of a new prison in Bedok, to help ease existing congestion in prisons.
1978: NTUC against “jobs for disabled” laws – The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) is against legislative measures compelling employers to give jobs to the handicapped as such a move is counter-productive. Mr CV Devan Nair, NTUC’s secretary-general, who stated this in a TV documentary, also disclosed that the NTUC was to set up a vocational rehabilitation centre to train the handicapped for jobs. However, he added, the centre would take some time to materialise as two conditions need to be fulfilled first.
Maintaining that employers’ reluctance to employ the handicapped posed the most intractable problem, the documentary noted a suggestion by some social workers that where gentle persuasion had failed, perhaps legislative measures could be applied.
1993: Can a woman sexually harass a man? – In what I seen as a legal “first”, 33-year-old Sabino Gutierrez alleged that he was the victim of sexual harassment by his female superior, the company’s finance director Maria Martinez. Gutierrez said Martinez fondled him and made threats after he rejected her advances. He was awarded US$1 million by jurors in a sexual harassment lawsuit.
Gutierrez claimed he was sexually harassed almost daily for six years.
This decision raises a question which has vexed both lawyers and laymen since the demand for female suffrage and the great wave of 19th-Century legal reform: How far can the law treat a woman as the legal equivalent of a man?
1986: Singapore’s first Judicial Commissioner appointed – The long-anticipated appointment of a Judicial Commissioner of the Supreme Court was announced by the Prime Minister’s Office and immediately welcomed by the legal profession. Singapore’s first Judicial Commissioner is Mr Chan Sek Keong, a senior partner in the law firm Shook Lin and Bok. The term of Mr Chan’s appointment is two years, at his request, starting July 1.
A PMO statement said the Prime Minister, after consulting the Chief Justice, had advised the President to appoint Mr Chan under Article 95 of the Constitution. The appointment comes seven years after the Constitution was amended in 1979, to provide for such a post “in order to facilitate the disposal of business in the Supreme Court”.
A Judicial Commissioner has all the powers and functions of a judge of the Supreme Court and enjoys the same immunities.
1967: Solicitors law for developers – Housing developers and purchasers will be affected by a Bill which will prohibit two solicitors in the same firm from acting separately in the same transaction -- one for the housing developer and the other for the purchaser. The Bill, entitled the Legal Profession (Amendment) Bill, extends the time for applying for leave to appeal from six weeks to three months from the date of the decision appealed against.
The appellate court will also be given the discretion in special circumstances to grant leave, even after the expiry of such period of three months.
1974: Street roundup, 200 held – Detectives rounded up more than 200 long-haired youths, including some on the “wanted” list, during a massive raid in the Chinatown area. Among those arrested were secret society suspects, illegal immigrants and boys below the age of 16. Some of those detained were wanted by Police for gang fights, stabbing and theft.
In the hour-long operation, led by Supt Ng Leng Hua, OC Central Station, detectives roamed into the busy streets from 8.30pm to pick up suspects and taken to the nearby Police Headquarters in Pearl’s Hill and later brought to Central station for question. It is understood that they were held under the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Ordinance, pending further screening at the CID.
1965: Strike ban, Singapore legally bound – The Central Government will not interfere with labour problems in Singapore because the State already has machinery to prevent strikes and lockouts. Announcing this, the Minister of Labour V Manickavasagam, however, pointed out “Singapore is legally bound by the essential regulations proclaimed by the Yangdi-Pertuan Agong the week before, banning strikes in essential services”.Because the Central Government had invoked its emergency powers, the question of the State Government’s autonomy became a “secondary matter”, he added.
Mr Manickavasagam said he had explained the position to Singapore’s Labour Minister Jek Yuen Thong and both were satisfied that the two governments could carry on “as at present”.
1985: Tougher law proposed for drunk driving – Drinking three small bottles of beer will get you in trouble if you drive less than an hour later. Under a proposed new law, you could face a drunk driving charge because blood tests will show that you have more than 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.
A Bill will be introduced in Parliament seeking to reduce the legal limit of alcohol-blood content from its present 110mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood to 80mg/100ml.
Tests have shown that if a person weighing 70kg drinks the three bottles of beer, he will be affected by the alcohol unless he waits for more than an hour before getting behind the wheel. And this is based on the assumption that he has had a full meal.
Police are also considering the use of breathalysers.
Accidents caused by drunk drivers have risen almost five-fold over a 10-year period – from 25 cases in 1975 to 12 1984.
1965: Brakes on appeal to Privy Council –The government is drafting legislation to stop certain appeals being taken to the Privy Council in London. The Cabinet is expected to discuss the draft at its next meeting. It would be introduced to Parliament as a Constitutional (Amendment) Bill.
The proposal is expected to affect only cases pertaining to constitutional and criminal matters. It is understood that civil appeals would still be allowed provided the subject matter were over $25,000. At present, cases involving $5,000 and above are allowed.
The government is said to be concerned over the increasing number of Malaysian judgments reversed by the Privy Council. The Federation Bar Council is understood to be “unhappy” that it has not been consulted.
1987: NUS to start part-time course for law grads – The National University of Singapore Law Faculty is starting a part-time postgraduate course in the new academic year beginning in July. Lawyers will be able to get their masters degrees by attending evening classes and sitting for examinations, rather than doing research and writing a dissertation.
Law graduates may enroll for one- or two-year courses and they will qualify for a Masters in Law degree if they pass the examinations at the end of the course. They will be required to read four subjects out of about eight to 10, ranging from family law, to advanced banking law, insurance and international business transactions.
Besides this new coursework programme, the faculty will still allow post-graduate students to work for their masters degrees by research and dissertations.
2005: Death Sentence? Let Judges Decide –Former judicial commissioner has called for a review of sentencing in cases where the death penalty is compulsory. Mr K.S. Rajah, now a senior counsel, wants judges to be given the discretion to impose a life jail term where it is deemed appropriate. His call, made in the latest issue of the monthly Law Gazette, was prompted by the judgment last October of the Court of Appeal in the case of a drug trafficker.
The court had rejected the appeal of Vietnamese-Australian Nguyen Tuong Van, 24, against his death sentence for heroin trafficking and Mr Rajah said the court indicated for the first time that they are prepared to listen to arguments that can show hanging was prohibited as an international legal rule because it was cruel and inhuman.
Presently, judges cannot look into extenuating circumstances to justify a sentence other than death for a person found guilty of murder or drug trafficking. The mandatory death sentence, regardless of the circumstances of the offence and the offender, is an issue that agitates 'some legal minds in Singapore', he wrote in the gazette, a publication of the Law Society of Singapore to discuss current legal issues.
1966: Government take-over of land: New Bill for compensation – The principle in determining compensation to be awarded to the owners of land acquired by the government have been set out in the new Land Acquisition Bill, read for the first time in Parliament on April 21. According to the new law, the increase in value will not be taken into account if it is a result of any improvement within two years before the declaration is made under the act, if the land is used in an unlawful manner or detrimental to health, and where the value has been increased by reason of public development within a specific time.
1977: Singapore Book Publishers Association: A new copyright law is needed – The Singapore Book Publishers Association has called for a new copyright law to protect locally published books and to help develop the book trade. Its president Koh Hock Seng said the association has also drawn up a two-pronged plan to project the image of Singapore as a growing centre for publishing and distribution of books in Asia. It had taken steps to enlarge the scope of its annual book fair to attract overseas participants, especially those from the region. The association has also embarked on a programme of exposing the growing list of local literary, creative and scholarly works at international fairs.
1987: The Human Organ Transplant Bill, aimed at cutting the number of needless deaths from kidney failure has passed the scrutiny of a parliamentary select committee, which recommended no change to the Bill after having received seven written representations and hearing evidence on it. The Bill allows doctors to remove the kidneys of a victim of a fatal accident for transplant of the dead person had not objected to it in writing during his lifetime.
Under the proposed law, those who do not wish to have their organs removed must opt out by signing a form. Those who opt out will not enjoy equal priority with others for kidney transplant if they should need them. They may withdraw their objections at any time but will get equal priority only after two years. The Bill exempts Muslims but they may opt in if they choose to be a kidney donor.
1966: Limitation (Amendment) Bill said that action for personal injuries arising from road accidents, for example, must be brought within three years of the accident, instead of four to five years. Law Minister Yong Nyuk Lin said it would be difficult for witnesses to testify with any degree of accuracy should it drag on. It was felt that the reduction of the limitation period to three years would not cause hardship to third parties.
Police investigation papers were normally destroyed by the Police two or three years after an accident and if actions were brought after that, Police witnesses would be unable to refresh their memories from statements or plans made by them soon after the accident. The Bill had been referred to the Singapore Bar Committee and they supported its provisions.
1989: Two laws curbing appeals to Privy Council come into effect – One is the Judicial Committee (Amendment) Act 1989, which restricts the right of final appeal to the highest appellate body in Singapore’s judicial system. It disallows appeals in civil cases unless the parties involved give a written agreement that they will be bound by the decision of the British Law Lords. For criminal trials, appeals are restricted to cases involving the death penalty or life.
Also coming into effect is the Legal Profession (Amendment) Act 1989, under which lawyers who face disciplinary proceedings can no longer appeal to London’s Privy Council after their cases have been heard by a three-judge court in Singapore. For those who are disciplined for criminal convictions, these will now be final and conclusive and cannot be questioned by any disciplinary committee or court.
1973: When a doctor must get permission to treat addicts – Doctors may not be allowed to treat drug addicts without prior official permission when the Misuse of Drugs Bill becomes law. It is thought that addicts should be treated only in establishments specifically authorised to do so and not allowed to go from clinic to clinic for treatment or in search of drugs. This will be in accordance to the law, which is in force in Britain. Powers to enforce compliance among healthcare professionals will be contained in the regulations by the health Ministry. This will help keep tabs on addicts and enable them to undergo proper and systematic treatment.
2005: Biosafety laws to instill research confidence – New laws governing biological agents and toxins will boost the confidence of international scientists seeking to work with the 100 or so laboratories and groups in Singapore that deal in them. The draft laws aim for a culture of safety rather than being a witch-hunt, the Health Ministry said when it unveiled the 73-page draft Biological Agents and Toxins Bill.
The proposed laws call for those operating facilities to be responsible for complying with safety standards and security measures and penalties depend on which rules are flouted and the risk level of substances involved. The laws will also allow for a complete inventory of exactly what high-risk agents are being worked on here.
1969: Law study reforms: Views of top brains sought – Ord Justice of Appeal in England, Lord Diplock, flew in to seek the views of Singapore’s top legal brains on the proposed reforms for training of barristers in England. These reforms would affect Singapore and foreign students wishing to go to Britain to study law. Lord Diplock, who is the chairman of the Council of Legal Education in England added that the main aim of these reforms is to make the training of students more professional and the emphasis will be laid on professional techniques.
2014: Proposed law could make ISPs block piracy website
Singaporeans might see the end of illegal downloads from the infamous file-sharing site, The Pirate Bay. The Law Ministry proposed new legislation that would allow content owners to get court orders compelling Internet service providers (ISPs) to block "flagrantly infringing" websites. It is set to be implemented by the end of the year.
Recent findings are that six in 10 people download movies and videos illegally online. Lawyers said the amendment would make it easier for content providers, as the current process to block piracy sites is time consuming and costly, and could theoretically be dragged out over years and cost millions.
1966: Singapore appoints first woman judge – Jenny Lau Buong Bee made Singapore legal history in 1966 when she became the first woman to be appointed a district judge. Earlier, in 1960, she had made Malayan legal history by becoming the first magistrate in Malaya.
Madam Lau received her legal training at Lincoln’s Inn in London, returning to Singapore in 1957. She was briefly in a private law firm before being appointed as a magistrate in the Juvenile and Family Courts. She also sat on the Singapore Cinematographic Films Committee of Appeal (an old name for the Film Censorship Board) as well as the Eugenics Board. She served in the Subordinate Courts until 1975 when she joined the Shaw Organisation as a legal advisor. She eventually retired in 1988 but continued to help in her sister May’s law firm.
1969: On the right side of the law at last – HE who became a SHE – A major legal complication involving a Singapore bachelor who underwent a sex change and became a nightclub artiste in Germany has been cleared. The tangle was over this person’s status before the law. Faced with such a problem for the first time, the High Court came up with this result: that HE is now a SHE. Granted by Justice Winslow, the order states that she – born a male during the Japanese Occupation – is to be known and called by a certain feminine name.
Commenting on this, she said that the order has taken “a heavy load off me”.
2006: International trademark treaty will now bear Singapore's name – Called the Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks, it will put in place standardised requirements and processes for individuals or companies seeking to file newer types of trademarks for their products or services - those that go beyond the usual logos produced in the print media.
These new trademarks can take the form of holograms, 'soundmarks' or even 'scentmarks'. An example of a soundmark is the distinctive tune played when an Intel-based computer boots up; similarly, a scentmark is a smell associated with a brand. Forty-one countries such as Singapore, the United States, Madagascar and Uzbekistan, have become signatories to the treaty.
2009: New graduate law degree programme launched at SMU – The School of Law at the Singapore Management University (SMU) launched a new Juris Doctor or J.D. programme to enable mid-career or fresh graduates in other disciplines to pursue a degree in law. The programme is a three-year full time course, though students can complete it in as little as two years if they enrol in courses during their vacation. Under the programme, students have to complete a total of 18 core law courses, which include criminal law, contract law, law of property and ethics and social responsibility. They also need to undergo a ten-week internship and complete 80 hours of community service.
1988: Record 120 new lawyers called to the Bar – There was then also an equal number of men and women and Chief Justice Wee Chong Jin said it showed “perfect equality of sexes”. He said it also showed that women were just as capable as men. CJ also reminded them that the profession which they had chosen was a “learned and honourable” one and that each of them will have to play a part to keep it so.
“I believe that part is best played if each member demands of himself or herself the highest standards of probity, integrity and competence and just as important, to keep abreast of the law through continuing legal education in whatever form it takes,” he said.
First Mass Call Reception hosted by SAL in 1989.
1971: Call for point system for drivers – The Registry of Vehicles should consider adopting a point system whereby traffic offenders are asked to “show cause” why their licenses should not be withdrawn for breaking traffic rules, A United Nations safety expert suggested. Mr DG Vaughn, advisor to the National Safety First Council, was speaking on Road Safety to members of the Lions Club of Singapore East at Hotel Equatorial.
2005: The case of a man whose conviction whose conviction and sentence were reversed after he had served his time in prison has prompted Chief Justice Yong Pung How to call for reforms in the criminal justice system, so that such a situation does not happen again. Describing it as “regrettable”, he said there should be place in the system for special circumstances like those of Mr Yeo Eng Siang.
1975: University of Singapore Students Union president Tan Wah Piow was jailed for a year by the first District Court after he was found guilty of rioting in the Corporative Drive premises of the Pioneer Industries Employees Union on Oct 30, 1974.
2002: The Supreme Court is planning to implement a video-conferencing system. This is a new e-litigation initiative where matters such as pre-trial conferences and applications which require the presence of only one party, can be done through a videophone.
2005: The law gets tougher on insider trading. Under the new law, it is not necessary to prove that the accused intended to use the information when the accused sold or purchased the shares. In effect, the new law ensures that those who knowingly have inside information are prohibited from trading, whether or not they are connected with the company.
1976: Several lawyers have called for an urgent review of the law on mandatory caning to allow judges the discretion in deciding whether or not caning should be imposed. It was with reference to the case of armed robber Sani Ben Salleh, then 17, who was sentenced to a jail sentence and 26 strokes for three robberies. It was later reduced to 10 by Chief Justice Wee Chong Jin after he found the sentence to be completely out of proportion with the offences.
1965: The Federal Court of Malaysia today dismissed the appeal of Indonesian Lemanit Ahmad, 23, who was earlier convicted and sentenced to death in September 1964 for causing a bomb to explode at the Royal Air Force Base in Telok Paku Road in Changi.
2006: More than nine in 10 (96%) Singaporeans back the death penalty for heinous crimes, a survey conducted by the Sunday Times found. Nine in 10 also want the hard line to be taken against any foreigner who commits a crime that carries the death penalty. He should not be spared even if his country does not give the punishment of death for that crime.