A Day In Court
Date: 1 June 2017, Thursday
Venue: State Courts, Singapore
By Licup Ariana Isabelle Gonzales, Class 3/2
This event was very memorable for me as this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn about the judicial system in Singapore and also get a chance to interact with student leaders from various schools. The courtroom in real life is very different from the ones we see in movies. The judges no longer wear wigs! The court is also now managed electronically, so there are no longer stacks of paper and files. Apart from the important personnel such as judges and the public prosecutors, the courts also have a well-staffed administrative team to support the system.
In the first half of the day, the participants had to work in groups to deliberate on a case involving a 19 year old boy who threw a punch on an innocent guy. As a result, the victim suffered permanent scars and a broken skull. I was in the prosecutor's team and we have had to decide on the punishment to recommend to the judge. We had to make sure that sentence is fair to both the perpetrator and the victim. It was honestly not an easy task as there were too many factors to consider. Firstly, we have to make sure the sentence is legally and socially justified while taking into consideration the severity of the victim’s injuries, and most importantly, whether justice has been served. Secondly, we need to consider whether the sentence is too harsh for a teenager, taking into consideration the physical, emotional and social impact the sentence could have on the 19 year old boy.
After debating with the team representing the defendant, the 'prosecutors' still could not decide on probation or jail sentence for the offender but nevertheless, we had to move on. We finally made our way to the courtroom where we role-played as if it was a real trial. While the 'prosecutors' fought for their case, the 'defendant's lawyers' also argued their case to make sure the sentence would be a lenient one.
Who knew that the prosecutors are the ones meting out the sentences for the offender? I always thought that the judge is the one making all these decisions but actually, the prosecutors play a big part in it; whereas the main duty of the judge is to ensure a fair trial by questioning the defendant's lawyer, the plaintiff, the accused as well as the prosecutor.
After our mock trial, we went to watch a real trial in courtroom 26. Offenders who were in custody or on bail were summoned to allow the judge and the prosecutor to decide on their sentences. There were 4 cases of drug trafficking and drug abuse. For one particular case, the bail amount was as high as $70,000 and the offender even had to surrender his passport and identity card. There was also a case of robbery and the judge decided that the accused will not be able to go on bail, which means he would be held in custody until the trial is over.
We then had a tour of the State Courts. We visited the Centre for Dispute Resolution and the mediation rooms where civil disputes are settled through the help of a mediator. The Centre encourages people to settle their disputes outside of a lengthy and costly trial by providing alternative dispute resolution services such as mediation for civil claims, including motor accident and personal injury claims. I learnt that mediation actually has a success rate of 85% and it not only helps to save time, money and hassle for the parties in dispute, it also frees up the manpower in the courts to focus on more serious cases.
Overall, the whole experience was very educational and enriching. I truly enjoyed myself and I got to know many things that I didn’t know before!