What the Innocence Project (Singapore) does
Inaugurated in 2013, the Innocence Project (Singapore) is a student-led initiative that seeks to provide recourse to individuals who believe they have been wrongfully convicted of crimes.
While a well functioning criminal justice system strives to convict the guilty and protect the innocent, the imprisonment of innocent persons debases this purpose, destroying lives of the wrongly convicted, falsely reassuring the victims, allowing real perpetrators the freedom to commit further crimes, and ultimately undermining public confidence in our criminal justice system.
The first of its kind in Singapore, the Innocence Project (Singapore) is a collaborative effort between the NUS Criminal Justice Club, The Law Society of Singapore’s Pro Bono Services Office, and the Association of Criminal Lawyers of Singapore (ACLS). It is based on the shared view that even in the best of criminal justice systems, error cannot be completely ruled out, and that the Innocence Project (Singapore) will address this in a way that no other existing institution does.
The Innocence Project (Singapore) maintains its membership size at around 40 across all batches of NUS Law students. We provide training opportunities for our members and expect good quality work and a high level of dedication. Members should be able to commit for the duration of one academic year. In groups of two to three, members will work under the guidance of a senior member and execute their responsibilities under the Innocence Project (Singapore) in, broadly, two aspects.
On the front end, the Innocence Project (Singapore) reviews and investigates claims of wrongful conviction. Student members, in consultation with the Project core team and our faculty advisors – Professor Walter Woon, Associate Professor Chan Wing Cheong and Assistant Professor Cheah Wui Ling, will make a preliminary assessment on the merits of applications. The assessment process may include conducting interviews with applicants and witnesses, and seeking out evidence to corroborate the testimonies obtained. Analysis of evidential and procedural aspects of the applications may also be required. Meritorious applications will be brought to lawyers from The Law Society of Singapore and the ACLS, following which lawyers may take on the case in a pro-bono capacity.
On the back end, the Innocence Project (Singapore) maintains its website as an outreach platform and engages in research work relating to the issue of wrongful conviction. We take our research work seriously and aim to gain specialist knowledge in our field of expertise. Student members of the Project may be asked to assist with the research initiatives and/or to contribute articles of interest to our website.
Earlier in 2015, Innocence Project (Singapore) landed its first meritorious case where a student team successfully overturned an applicant’s wrongful conviction and secured a subsequent discharge amounting to an acquittal. This was reported in The Straits Times on 21st February 2015 and it cemented our commitment towards building a more robust criminal justice system in Singapore by functioning as a final safeguard to ensure that the innocent are vindicated.
The Role of the Innocence Project (Singapore) in the Criminal Justice System
The Innocence Project (Singapore) is positioned as a safety ‘net’ to the criminal justice system, and aims to complement the existing criminal justice process. By assessing claims of wrongful conviction on their merits, in consultation with experienced law professors and criminal law practitioners, the Project will increase public confidence in the criminal justice process.
Promoting student interest in Criminal Law
The Innocence Project (Singapore) will serve an important role in promoting student interest in the practice of Criminal Law. A vibrant Criminal Bar, on both the Prosecution and Defence sides, is vital to the continued improvement of the Administration of Criminal Justice in Singapore.