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Criminal Procedure Code – Standing down Charges


25 November 2019

Case note on Criminal Procedure Code – Standing down Charges:
Lim Chit Foo v Public Prosecutor [2019] SGCA 70*

1. In Lim Chit Foo v Public Prosecutor [2019] SGCA 70, the accused person faced several charges for allegedly defrauding the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS). He claimed trial to all of them. The prosecution elected to proceed to trial on only some of the charges, and to stand down the rest. This meant that the stood down charges could later be revived, subjecting the accused to a further trial (or multiple further trials) even if he was acquitted after the first trial.

2. The accused person challenged the legality of the prosecution’s approach.

3. The prosecution contended that its right to do so was founded in Section 6 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), allowing it to adopt “such procedure as the justice of the case may require, and which is not inconsistent with the [CPC] or such other law.”

4. The Court of Appeal rejected this. It held instead that the statutory basis for standing down charges is Section 238 of the CPC. This is because once charges have been brought before the court, criminal proceedings are afoot in respect of those charges. The conduct of such proceedings must necessarily fall within the purview of the court. To allow otherwise would be to give the prosecution unfettered control over such proceedings, and in some cases it is conceivable that the prosecution could seek to control the pace and sequence of trials by standing down charges in a manner that might objectively be oppressive to the accused person.

5. Thus, the Court of Appeal posited that the Defence could raise an objection to the prosecution’s application to stand down certain charges pending the trial of others, considering factors such as (1) whether the earlier trial is likely to be completed within a reasonable period of time (2) whether the accused person is in remand or on bail (3) whether the parties have sufficient resources for the trials to be conducted concurrently.

 

*by Chooi Jing Yen

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