As the only criminal law moot in Singapore, the much-awaited Attorney-General’s Cup 2014 finals are here at last! After multiple intense and grueling rounds, two participants, Wong Yan Yee and Sean Sim, have managed to keep themselves alive in the game and will be facing each other in the finals on 29th Aug (Fri) at the NUS Law moot court. This mooting showdown will be judged by Attorney-General V.K. Rajah S.C., Judge of Appeal Justice Andrew Phang, and Justice Quentin Loh. Such an epic battle of skills and wits is definitely not to be missed! Please be seated by 6:15pm and we hope to see you there!
The Criminal Justice Conference 2014 was held on 16th August 2014 at SMU’s Mochtar Riady Auditorium. Organised by NUS Criminal Justice Club and SMU Criminal Law Club, the event attracted approximately 70 students from NUS law and SMU law to attend.
The event kicked off with a keynote address delivered by the Guest-of-honour, Minister for Law, Mr K. Shanmugam, who gave a seminal speech which received massive media attention. His speech covered two main themes, pertaining to recent developments in law as well as the future of the legal profession.
First, the minister expounded on the cornerstones of our Criminal Justice system, focusing on the principals of deterrence, rehabilitation, fairness, and the general purpose of laws in society. Second, he elucidated the rationale behind the amendments to the mandatory death penalty, the recently passed Protection from Harassment Act and the Family Justice Act. With regards to the Protection against Harassment Act, Singapore’s high cyberbullying rates was an important factor considered when formulating the act. The Family Justice Act aims to simplify the divorce process and to introduce judge-led proceedings to the system.
The second theme is extremely close to our hearts and pertinent to most, if not all of, current and potential law students. To a rapt and interested audience, the minister gave his projections on the future of the legal profession, replete with statistics that were undeniably alarming. The rapidly increasing number of those seeking to practice law in Singapore, vividly described as ‘an explosion’, has become a reality for Singapore’s mature economy. At the rate of increase in the number of law graduates returning from overseas universities (which far outstrips Singapore’s rate of economic growth), it is virtually impossible for the local market for legal services to absorb such an impact. Coupled with the effect of globalisation and outsourcing, competition for training contracts and employment would be stiff in the upcoming years. Therefore, the minister urged potential students to carefully consider their career choices, and not be misled by reports of lawyers earning sky-high salaries, for the truth is that there is a huge disparity between the top lawyers and everyone else. Students doing law should be truly interested in the study of law, and be receptive to alternative career options, in order to avoid disappointment. This reality check vis-à-vis the future of the legal profession has since became a hot topic amongst law students.
After the minister’s speech, we began with the first panel of the day. This panel, titled Sexual Offences By And Involving Minors, was moderated by Associate Professor Chandra Mohan from the SMU School of Law. The panel comprised of DPP Ms Sharmila Sripathy from Attorney-General’s Chambers, Ms Jennifer Teoh from the Ministry for Social and Family Development, Defence Counsel Mr Tan Chee Meng and Defence Counsel Mr Sunil Sudheesan. Topics discussed ranged from consensual sex between minors and commercial sex involving minors to sentencing considerations for underage sex. A learning point of this discussion is that the law acts with the goal of curbing acts involving deviant sexual behaviour, and seeks to rehabilitate minors who have committed such crimes. The guest speakers had a lively debate over the issue of whether absolute liability should be imposed on perpetrators of commercial sex involving minors, and should the defence of mistake as to fact be available. Another issue raised was whether we should impose heavier sentences as the age gap widens for perpetrators of underage sex. The audience actively took part by asking various questions that kept the discussion going.
After the panel drew to a close, guests and participants were treated to a feast which satisfied their ravenous appetite for food.
As for the participants’ thirst for knowledge, panacea came along with the second panel. The second panel, titled Cyber Harassment, was graced by a number of experts in this area. On it, we had Ms Thian Yee Sze from the Ministry of Law, Ms G Kannan from Attorney-General’s Chambers, Defence Counsel Mr Josephus Tan, Associate Professor David Tan from NUS Faculty of Law and Ms Esther Ng from the Coalition Against Bullying for Children & Youth. The panel moderator was Professor Amirthalingam Kumaralingam from NUS Faculty of Law. The main point of discussion was the recently enacted Protection from Harassment Act, which the panel unanimously welcomed and agreed that it was passed not a moment too soon. However, the panel was split on issues such as whether harassment refers to the harm or a course of conduct. The panellists explained the difficulties with formulating an all-encompassing definition of harassment, and the advantages of the Act being medium neutral. Self-help remedies provided by the Act as well as the enforceability of the Act against online harassment were also discussed. The panel concluded with a thought-provoking comment leaving the participants to ponder over the importance of this Act and the importance of making it work.
Participants were then given the valuable opportunity to ask our Guest-of-honour, Minister for Law, Mr K. Shanmugam questions during the subsequent dialogue session. A multitude of questions were asked. The minister offered his views on points such as the interaction of law and society, the future of the legal profession and the role of the ministry, the exploitation of minors for commercial sex, the concept of contingency fees, and the need for privacy to be protected for parties involved in family disputes in our courts.
Lastly, we would like to extend our sincerest gratitude towards our Guest-of-honour, Minister for Law, Mr K. Shanmugam for gracing our event, and our distinguished guest speakers for spending their precious time with us. To all our participants, thank you for attending the event! We hope that it has given you invaluable insight into the functioning of criminal law and we hope to see you at our next event!
13th August 2014 saw the CJC’s Military Justice Project (“MJP”) hold its very first major event, the MJP Round-Table Discussion. The Round-Table brought together various legal experts in the military justice system to give participants deeper insight into the workings of the system.
Though the military justice system may be easily dismissed by many a National Serviceman as just another one of those faceless features of National Service, the Round-Table helped show that this is an area of law that is very much alive and relevant to everyday Singaporeans. With every Singaporean son coming under military law at some point during their lives, this area of law is unfortunately inadequately understood by many. This Round-Table thus served as an important platform to promote interest in this area of law.
The MJP was most privileged to have District Judge Christopher Goh, Mr Josephus Tan and Mr Amolat Singh as the panelists for the event. Between the three of them, they commanded more than 50 years experience in both the SAF and in the legal industry. They were joined by Mr Jon Ong, the Head of Military Law in MINDEF Legal Services, who offered a glimpse into the various considerations MINDEF makes handling the military justice system. Professor Kevin Tan kept the Round-Table at an informal atmosphere, ably juggling questions and light banter between our panelists.
Salient points from the Round-Table included the various differences between the military courts and the normal “civilian” courts of Singapore as well as the military court’s role on a disciplinary tribunal.
This area of law is not merely just one for the “boys club” but instead forms a steady backbone to the hallowed institution of National Service in Singapore. We hope that the Round-Table served as an insightful introduction to the military justice system and that this would mark the start of a resurgence in interest vis-à-vis this area of law.
The Attorney-General’s Cup 2014 semifinals will be held on 15 Aug (Fri) at the State Courts! The first moot is expected to begin at 6:30pm. Spectators are welcomed and are to be seated in Court 5 by 6:15pm. Please note that due to the size of the courtroom, seats are very limited. Do come and support NUS law representative, Douglas Wong!
Military Justice Project is inviting all to its first public event, a Round-Table Discussion. If you’re interested to know more about the military justice system in Singapore, please click on the following link to register.
Sign ups are closed. Please look forward to the next MJP event!
The NUS Criminal Justice Club and the SMU Criminal Law Club will be holding the third Criminal Justice Conference.
Sexual Offences By and Involving Minors (10 am – 12.30pm)
Cyber Harassment (1.30 pm – 3.30 pm)
Dialogue with Minister for Law, K. Shanmugam (3.30 pm – 5 pm)
Some of our panelists:
Representatives from the Ministry of Law and Attorney-General’s Chambers
Defence Counsel: Josephus Tan, Tan Chee Meng and Sunil Sudheesan
Professor Kumaralingam, NUS (Criminal & Tort Law)
Associate Professor David Tan, NUS (Media Law)
As a participant, you will learn how Singapore’s criminal justice system tackles sexual offences committed by or involving minors. How is Singapore handling an increasing number of sexually active minors? Should underage prostitutes be punished as well?
You will also learn about the Protection from Harassment Bill – its scope, application and the legal remedies available. Will trolling or flaming be caught by the Bill? What about public witchhunts (think Facebook and STOMP)?