Has the importance of innocence become frivolous in Singapore?

One does not need to be a lawyer to have heard or understood the term "innocent until proven guilty". This particular, maxim,seems to be universal, at least on paper. The United Nations had incorporated it in its Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. It is also found in the European Convention of Human Rights. For those who might wonder if such a right is present in Singapore, fret not, it is enshrined in our constitution which expressly states "No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty save in accordance with law."

What that means is the anyone charged with a criminal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defense.
 


Anyone in Singapore who is well versed in our legal system or has first hand experience with the law will know that our system is tough. While our Constitution does state clearly that " Where a person is arrested, he shall be informed as soon as may be of the grounds of his arrest and shall be allowed to consult and be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice."

The above statement may sound like one has has the right to legal counsel as soon as may be. However, this issue has been seen enough enough discussion in the courtrooms. The current stand remains that there is no immediate right of access to counsel and that the police ought to have "reasonable time" for investigations.

At this point, the law in Singapore seems sensible and balanced. The right of innocence is still seen to be there. Now, let's look at reality. Ten days ago, 2 ladies (mother - daughter duo) were charged in Court for the alleged murder of their domestic helper.  While I am mindful that a life has been lost, let us remind ourselves of the maxim. These 2 housewives are innocent until they they have been found guilty by a Court of Law. But, are we even giving them that right?

Their names have made the headlines on print and social media. While I could stomach that, the following video made me sick. 
 

The word innocence has no relation to the above picture. Needless to say, there were tons of comments which were insulting to the mother-daughter duo. Well, everyone is entitled to their opinion. But, do we need to provide a forum for these comments?  

What really caught my eye was the bevy of reporters and photographers? Was this some circus show? Why is a Police investigation a public affair? How did these reporters even know the details of the investigation? Even if they did, shouldn't the Police officers  be chasing them away. Clearly, the 2 women who have been accused of the crime are assisting the Police with their investigations. The least we could do is respect their basic human right.

Let me just reiterate that I am not condoning any crime. I have the deepest respect for human life and if the duo did in fact murder the victim, they should be punished by the law. But, until that day arrives, they should be treated as how an innocent person should.

Perhaps, if you look at the principle and not the crime, you may agree with me. I am quite sure the authorities can do something to rectify this unconstitutional practices. If we can issue gag orders to protect victims during trial, I am quite sure all accused persons can be treated with respect bearing in mind that they could be innocent. I am hopeful that our friends from media have some ethics. Its not always about sensationalism and increasing traffic. The above video for example has gotten close to a million views. A video that should not even be around. 

 
The Stand from the Minister is Clear. Perhaps we should not just take what he said at face value
Photo credits: The Online Citizen

 



 

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