Plea Bargaining in Singapore: Reaping the Pros & Mitigating the Pitfalls

By Yeoh Jean Ann, Alastair Simon Chetty, Jolin Chen and Toh Ming Min.

Introduction

Lady Justice

Image Credit: Ben Sutherland. Header: Emmanuel Huybrechts. Both licensed under CC BY 3.0 US

In his speech at the Criminal Law Conference 2014, Minister for Law, Mr. K. Shanmugam, stated that his ministry is working on formalising a framework of negotiations between Prosecution and Defence to encourage early case resolution. Mr. Shanmugam described this as ‘plea bargaining’ in plain language, and highlighted the benefits of formalising such a system: transparency in the pre-trial litigation process, better-informed accused persons, and the optimisation of resources.[1]

In anticipation of this formalised framework, this article will examine the rationale behind plea bargaining in criminal justice systems, and its role in Singapore’s legal context. It will also explore the merits and demerits of the American plea bargaining system, discuss the inherent plea bargaining element in the current Singaporean system, and finally, analyse how this vision of a formalised system can work to balance striving towards judicial efficiency with the all-important notions of fairness and justice. Continue reading

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