LETTER SENT TO THE STRAITS TIMES FORUM ON 16 OCTOBER 2006
I welcome the changes in our criminal justice system where "prosecutors to reveal all in proposed new law" (The Straits Times, 16 October 2006).
It is unfortunate that our policy gatekeepers do not see the value of providing individuals exposed to our criminal justice process early access to legal advice, that is when an investigation involving the individual begins.
Our criminal justice system presumes one is innocent until proven guilty. It is therefore only right for an innocent to have early access to legal representation.
But I respect that our public defenders have raised some valid concerns about such early access to legal professionals, despite recognising the need to protect the innocent. Perhaps, a win-win outcome can be reached through other means.
Lawyer Thomas Koshy recently proposed making and disclosing video recordings of statements provided to the police. This is something that can be considered.
Some time ago, the financial sector faced a similar issue. People were making disastrous financial decisions. A major initiative was launched to educate the public. Today, all buyers of financial products get free guidance materials. There are also many regular and complimentary financial literacy workshops for them.
Likewise, it is necessary to educate persons subject to our criminal justice practices about what they can and should do in such events.
Perhaps, the Law Society, Singapore Academy of Law and other relevant organisations can look into launching continuous programmes to keep the public regularly updated about their rights and responsibilities.
Innocent persons must be sufficiently protected from the adversarial aspects of our criminal justice system.