Written Answer by Minister for Law K Shanmugam to PQ on Measures to Prevent Criminals from Getting Away with Lighter Sentences by Exploiting Maximum Amount of Mitigation Options Available to Them
19 September 2023 Posted in Parliamentary speeches and responses
Ms Joan Pereira (Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar GRC)
To ask the Minister for Law with regard to the guidelines on reduction in sentences recommended by the Sentencing Advisory Panel for guilty pleas, what measures are in place to prevent criminals from getting away with much lighter sentences by exploiting the maximum amount of mitigating options available to them.
- The Guidelines on Reduction in Sentences for Guilty Pleas were issued by the inter-agency Sentencing Advisory Panel (“the Panel”) on 15 August 2023.
- These Guidelines do not fundamentally change our present sentencing practice. Currently, the Courts can and do reduce sentences, in appropriate cases, if accused persons plead guilty. Such reductions are granted by the Court in recognition that a plea of guilt by an accused person may have significant benefits, including: allowing victims to find closure early, and sparing victims and witnesses the need to prepare for a trial and testify in court. It also allows for a faster resolution of cases.
- The Guidelines build on and provide greater structure to the existing practice by setting out clearly the ranges of reduction in sentence that a Court may consider granting, based on when an accused person pleads guilty. This is intended to provide increased consistency, clarity and transparency to the existing sentencing practice. The recommended ranges of reduction set out in the Guidelines are set out in broad terms, to provide the Court with flexibility and discretion. Based on the circumstances, the Court may calibrate the sentence according to the facts of the case.
- The Guidelines would not result in “criminals getting away with much lighter sentences”. As mentioned earlier, our Courts already grant reductions in sentences where accused persons plead guilty, in appropriate cases. The Guidelines build on this existing practice and do not introduce an additional or new layer of reduction in sentence.
- The Guidelines also provide that they are not intended to result in reductions in sentences over and above the existing judicial guidelines or precedents in cases where offenders have pleaded guilty. Further, sentences cannot be reduced below any mandatory minimum sentence prescribed in law.
- Also, the Court retains the discretion to not apply the Guidelines in specific cases, if there are good reasons not to do so. The Guidelines expressly provide that, where the Court is of the view that it would be contrary to the public interest for the Guidelines to be applied, the Court does not need to do so and may instead apply a reduction that is just and proportionate.
Last updated on 19 September 2023