Our Beginnings

Before the construction of the current State Courts building at Havelock Square, the courthouses operated from various locations.

 

Criminal District and Magistrates' Courts

Criminal District and Magistrates' Courts, circa 1950sCriminal District and Magistrates' Courts, circa 1950s

Source: unknown

The Criminal District and Magistrates’ Courts were situated at South Bridge Road between North Canal Road and Upper Pickering Street. They date back to as far as 1877 and were also known throughout the years as the “Police Courts”, “Magistrates’ Courts”, and “Criminal District and Police Courts”. In 1951, two courthouses that were meant to be temporary were built in Hong Lim Green but they eventually remained there for more than 20 years, until the completion of the then Subordinate Courts building in 1975.


 

The 7th and 8th Magistrates’ Courts were situated next to each other along New Bridge Road, opposite Singapore General Hospital. These courts were originally the 3rd Traffic Court, Juvenile Court and Maintenance Court, until they were gazetted as Magistrates’ Courts in order to complement the work of the other Magistrates’ Courts.


 

Traffic Courts

9th and 10th Magistrates' Court, circa 1975 

9th and 10th Magistrates' Court, circa 1975

Source: National Archives, Singapore

Known to the older Hokkien-speaking Singaporeans as see pai poh (a reference to the Sepoy lines), the former Sepoy Lines Police Station in Outram housed the 1st and 2nd Traffic Courts in the 1930s. The 3rd Traffic Court was created in 1967 at 395 New Bridge Road. They were later re-designated as the 10th, 9th and 7th Magistrates’ Courts respectively.


 

Coroners' Courts

The Coroners' Courts were originally housed with the Criminal and Magistrates' Courts at South Bridge Road until they were relocated to 250 Outram Road in 1956. The Outram Road premises comprised two courts and chambers, two witnesses' room, an interpreters' room and a general office. The Coroners' Courts subsequently moved into the Subordinate Courts building at Havelock Square in 1975.


 

Civil District Courts

Civil District Courts 

Civil District Court at Empress Place, circa 1940s

Source: National Archives, Singapore

Built in 1827, the present Arts House at the Old Parliament building was home to the Civil District Courts during the early 1900s until the courts moved to Empress Place in the 1930s. Due to space constraints, the 4th District Court operated out of the Supreme Court building at St. Andrew’s Road. It only moved back into the Civil District Courts building in 1948 when the 5th District Court shifted into the South Bridge Road Police Courts building.


 

Juvenile and Magistrates' Maintenance Courts

The Juvenile Court first operated out of a room at 3 Havelock Road, then the Chinese Secretariat Building. In 1960, it moved to 11 Fort Canning Road (a former government bungalow) where both juvenile and non-Muslim maintenance cases were heard. The building was designated as the Fort Canning Magistrates' Courts. Following the closure of the Fort Canning Courts in 1963, juvenile cases were heard at the Civil District Courts at Empress Place. Maintenance cases were heard at the Criminal District and Magistrates' Courts at South Bridge Road up until 1964, when they were heard at the Civil District Courts. In 1970, these courts shifted to 397 New Bridge Road to function as the Juvenile and Magistrates' Maintenance Court. The following year, maintenance cases were again moved back to be heard at the Criminal District and Magistrates' Courts at South Bridge Road.


 

Construction of Subordinate Courts building (aka "the Octagon") in the 1970s

Subordinate Courts building, September 1975 

Subordinate Courts building, September 1975

Source: Photo courtesy of Mr. Chew C S

In 1972, the Singapore government called for tender-bids for the construction of the Subordinate Courts building. This was to centralise all courthouses which were operating from different locations. Construction works at the present Havelock Square site began shortly after in 1973.


 

Subordinate Courts building and the Family & Juvenile Courts building, 2010 

Subordinate Courts building and the Family & Juvenile Courts building, 2010

Source: State Courts, Singapore

In September 1975, the Subordinate Courts building was completed and ready for use. The building housed 26 courtrooms over an area of 30,600sqm. That year, the Magistrates’ Courts relocated to the Octagon.


 

The 1990s and early 2000s

Family and Juvenile Court at Paterson Rd  

Family and Juvenile Court at Paterson Rd
Source: State Courts, Singapore
In 1995, the Family Justice Division replaced the Maintenance Courts and operated from 25H Paterson Road. It moved to the current Family and Juvenile Court (FJC) building at 3 Havelock Square in October 2001. The Juvenile Court, which had been operating in the Subordinate Courts building since 1995, also relocated to the FJC building. This unified the operations of the Family Justice Division and the Juvenile Court. The FJC building today has nine family courts and one juvenile court.


Small Claims Tribunals at Apollo Centre 

Small Claims Tribunals at Apollo Centre

Source: State Courts, Singapore

Established in 1985, the Small Claims Tribunals (SCT) operated from Apollo Centre (currently known as 2HR) along Havelock Road from 1998 to 2005. For the public’s convenience, SCT also operated in Ang Mo Kio and Marine Parade. When Havelock Square became more accessible due to the extension of the public transport system in the early 2000s, all the SCT offices were relocated to the Subordinate Courts building in 2005.


 

Due to the increased caseload in the 1980s and 1990s, more courtrooms were added to the building in 1986. Six civil courtrooms and eight criminal courtrooms were added to the mezzanine level. By 1993, there were 40 courtrooms and 28 hearing chambers.


 

Subordinate Courts LogoOn 1 March 1997, the corporate logo for the Subordinate Courts was launched. The corporate logo drew its inspiration from a tympanum sculpture which is featured on the façade of the Supreme Court building. The central figure represents the Lady of Justice; to the left of the logo is a person begging for mercy, and on the other side of the Lady of Justice is a figure showing gratitude for justice received. The Lady of Justice holds aloft a pair of scales, symbolising the universality and impartiality of justice as well as the common law heritage of Singapore. Collectively, the sculpture is a powerful symbol of the authority of the Subordinate Courts in administering justice and upholding the Rule of Law and the values espoused by the Subordinate Courts.


 

The Next Phase

Renaming of State Courts

On 7 March 2014, the Subordinate Courts were renamed the State Courts. The new name gives proper recognition to the extensive and important role that the Courts play within the community and the judiciary. The logo was also updated to reflect the name change. The State Courts logo features an emblematic illustration of the new State Courts Complex together with a stylised bridge. On the left of the logo, a clean representation of the tower complex is applied – two coloured tower blocks representing the courtroom tower and the administrative tower. The towers are solid at the base, illustrating a firm commitment to justice anchored in the law while the angled peaked tops represent progress and aspiration towards excellence. The modern and sturdy typeface signifies the State Courts as a forum where justice prevails and disputes are resolved fairly and amicably.


 

The flat arc symbolically represents a bridge connecting the two towers of the State Courts Complex. Metaphorically, the stylised bridge that connects both the tower blocks not only emphasises the inter-connectivity between the judicial and administrative functions for the smooth running of the courthouse, but  is also a symbolic reminder of the need to ensure access to justice  to the people of Singapore through the State Courts’ unstinting commitment to serving society.


 

New State Courts Complex

New State Courts Complex 

Artiste’s impression of new State Courts Complex
Source: State Courts, Singapore

The State Courts are slated to move into a new high-rise building that sits adjacent to the Octagon. The winning design from Serie + Multiply Consultants Pte Ltd reflects a civic building that brings order and restoration, an image befitting of the State Courts. At the same time, the design resolves to make a link to the adjacent historic Chinatown by adopting the colours and textures of the clay-pitched roofs of the conserved shophouses of the area, by cladding the exterior of the courtrooms in terracotta tiles. The segregation created by the twin blocks enhances the clarity in the circulation for the users and occupants.


 

On 28 May 2014, The Honourable the Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon officiated the groundbreaking of the new State Courts Complex. The new Complex, to be completed in 2019, comprises two towers which will accommodate over 60 courtrooms and over 50 hearing chambers. The twin towers are linked by a series of sky bridges that enable the controlled circulation of court visitors and staff of the State Courts. An eco-friendly building, the new Complex features naturally ventilated corridors and high-rise gardens to filter the afternoon sun. The high-rise sky terraces bring green relief to the built-up city and provide soothing gardens to the users.

Last updated on: 15/11/2017 12:43 PM
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