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Proposed changes to Registration of Criminals Act tabled in Parliament

SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) tabled a Bill in Parliament today (Jan 29) to facilitate the sharing of information — excluding DNA information — recorded in the Register of Criminals with foreign law enforcement agencies.

Members of Parliament rise as President Tony Tan enters at the Opening of the 13th Parliament of Singapore on Jan 15, 2016. Photo: Jason Quah

Members of Parliament rise as President Tony Tan enters at the Opening of the 13th Parliament of Singapore on Jan 15, 2016. Photo: Jason Quah

SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) tabled a Bill in Parliament today (Jan 29) to facilitate the sharing of information — excluding DNA information — recorded in the Register of Criminals with foreign law enforcement agencies.

The proposed changes to the Registration of Criminals Act (RCA) – which was last amended in 2005 — will also allow local law enforcement agencies to take “registrable particulars and body samples” from a person on bail and under investigation.

The Act enables the police to register particulars of convicted individuals, including criminal records, fingerprints and photographs into the Register of Criminals.

The court can take into account the relevant information captured in the Register when sentencing a repeat offender.

The Act also provides for the collection of DNA information that can be used to identify suspects and aid criminal investigations.

The ministry said the RCA will be amended to enhance the effectiveness and timeliness of information exchange between Singapore and foreign law enforcement agencies.

“This will help Singapore obtain information for the prevention, investigation and prosecution of crime and allow us to assist our foreign counterparts in going after criminals internationally,” said the MHA.

“The Bill will also strengthen operational procedures for the registration of criminals.”

On sharing information from the Register of Criminals with foreign law enforcement agencies, the MHA this with strengthen Singapore’s ability to cooperate with foreign law enforcement agencies, as well as pursue criminals who operate beyond national boundaries.

“This also allows our LEAs (law enforcement agencies) to request for reciprocal assistance when investigating and prosecuting criminals in Singapore,” said the ministry in a press release.

The RCA currently provides for the taking of registrable particulars, such as fingerprints and body samples, of a person suspected of a crime. However, such particulars are collected when the person is under arrest, and not when he is released on bail.

Thus, under the proposed changes, the Act will be amended to allow law enforcement agencies to take registrable particulars and body samples from a person on bail and under investigation.

“This will enhance our (law enforcement agencies’) operational effectiveness to solve crimes, especially in cases where there is no opportunity to take fingerprints and body samples within 48 hours of arrest,” said the MHA.

Criminal lawyer Rajan Supramaniam felt that the proposed changes may “turn out to be unfavourable or prejudice to accused persons”.

“It will compromise their personal information and privacy as this will be shared with various law enforcement agencies,” said Mr Rajan, who has been a criminal lawyer for 15 years.

He pointed out that in the event that the charges are dropped against the accused person or the accused person is acquitted during investigations, the collection of body samples is “redundant”.

However, Acting President of the Association of Criminal Lawyers of Singapore Sunil Sudheesan described the proposed amendements as “minor” changes, “as all these samples should be taken at the stage of arrest so as to complete full investigations expeditiously”.

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