Criminal Justice Model

The criminal justice process is founded on two cardinal principles, namely, the supremacy of the rule of law as well as the protection of the public.

Singapore is a small island nation of 660 square kilometres. It is densely populated and supports a large number of communities with diverse religious, economic and cultural backgrounds. The integrity and the survival of our nation is greatly dependent on the social cohesiveness of and the harmony that exists amongst the various communities. Maintenance of the law and order is paramount. Keenly aware of the need to protect the public, State Courts Judges have sought to deter criminals and to prevent crime by consistently meting out sentences that reflect the sanctity of the law and the necessity to maintain a stable social order. For transgressors of the law, justice is meted out swiftly and with certainty.


State Courts believe that they can best discharge their duty as the guardian of the rule of law by constantly reviewing and improving their work processes as well as implementing new initiatives and strengthening their strategic partnerships with external agencies, both within and outside Singapore. In this regard, all criminal courts and processes are regularly and constantly reviewed with a view to enhancing the justice process in Singapore.


Parties in a court proceeding

District Judges

District Judges preside over cases in the District Courts. They are appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Chief Justice. In some cases, District Judges also preside over Magistrates' Courts cases.

In criminal cases, a District Judge can hear offences where the maximum imprisonment term does not exceed 10 years or are punishable with a fine only. A District Judge may pass any of the following sentences: 

  • Imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years; 
  • A fine not exceeding $30,000; 
  • Up to 12 strokes of the cane; 
  • Any lawful sentence combining any of the sentences which it is authorised by law to pass;

Where the law expressly provides for it, the District Judge can also hear offences and impose sentences which exceed the above limits.



Magistrates are appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Chief Justice. Magistrates preside over Magistrates' Courts. Magistrates also deal with complaints of criminal offences by aggrieved persons made on oath. These are called Magistrates' Complaints.

In criminal cases, a Magistrate can hear offences where the maximum imprisonment term does not exceed 5 years or are punishable with a fine only. A Magistrate may pass any of the following sentences: 

  • imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years
  • a fine not exceeding $10,000 
  • up to 6 strokes of the cane
  • any lawful sentence combining any of the sentences which it is authorised to pass by law 


However, where the law expressly provides for it, the Magistrates' Courts also have the jurisdiction to try offences and impose sentences which exceed the above limits. 



Prosecutors conduct criminal proceedings in court on behalf of the State. Depending on the type of cases, a Deputy Public Prosecutor, Assistant Public Prosecutor, Police Prosecutor or a Departmental Prosecutor may be present in court. In certain minor cases, such as those dealt with by way of Magistrate's Complaint, he may be the Complainant himself or his lawyer.



A witness is one who makes or gives oral statements of facts to a judge in open court or in a judge's hearing chambers. A witness has to be sworn or affirmed before his evidence is given. He must be a person who is competent to give evidence and is of sound mind. 



An accused is one who has been charged with an offence or a crime in a criminal court. An accused person is produced at a Criminal Mentions Court when the prosecution is ready to formally file charges against him. This takes place no longer than 48 hours after his arrest and remand. If the accused person is on police bail, he will be similarly asked to attend Court once the prosecution is ready to formally file charges against him.

Last updated on: 30/6/2017 2:40 PM
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