Singapore, 31 October 2022 — The State Courts and the Singapore Academy of Law (SAL) jointly organised the Sentencing Conference 2022 (Cyber edition) on 31 Oct and 1 Nov 2022, to promote the development of standards and best practices in sentencing. Titled Sentencing Frameworks – Instructive, Communicative and Consistent Outcomes, the two-day virtual conference was opened today by The Honourable the Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, and the Presiding Judge of the State Courts, Justice Vincent Hoong. About 250 members of the criminal justice system attended the Conference, including judges, prosecutors, criminal defence lawyers and providers of rehabilitation services.
The Conference features international and local speakers and panellists from the Judiciary and key stakeholders of the criminal justice system, who will discuss the integral role of sentencing frameworks in securing consistent outcomes in discrete cases and recent developments in the sentencing landscape in Singapore.
Sentencing frameworks issued by the Court of Appeal and the General Division of the High Court form a critical part of Singapore’s sentencing jurisprudence. In his Keynote Address at the Conference, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon spoke on the place of sentencing frameworks in the sentencing process, against the backdrop of the rise of sentencing discretion, the courts’ role in sentencing and the objectives and end goal of sentencing. He said that sentencing guidelines and frameworks are best understood as means to enable the sentencing court to strike the right balance between imposing a condign sentence on the individual offender while ensuring broad consistency in sentencing outcomes to achieve fairness across offenders.
Similarly, the Honourable Justice of the Court of Appeal Steven Chong, who delivered a special guest lecture at the Conference, spoke about the benefits that sentencing frameworks bring. He said that while sentencing is “not a scientific exercise and does not demand mathematical precision”, some degree of structure and broad consistency is essential for the coherent development of Singapore’s sentencing jurisprudence. He added: “The reality is that offenders do compare their sentences against those imposed on others whom they believe or perceive to be similarly situated, and so do members of the public who keep abreast of developments in our criminal law.”
In his Keynote Address, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon also spoke about two other topics. The first was the formation of the Sentencing Advisory Panel (SAP) in June this year. Chief Justice Menon said that the SAP will come to play a significant role in Singapore’s criminal justice system, by promoting consistency and transparency in sentencing while enhancing public awareness of sentencing. The second topic was the possible use of artificial intelligence (AI) in sentencing. Citing examples of how other jurisdictions have used AI in sentencing and the issues that this has raised, Chief Justice Menon said that he did not see Singapore using AI in criminal cases within the foreseeable future, but it remains an important subject to be followed closely.