Finding the right balance – The Singapore Community Justice and Tribunal Division Experience

Miss Li Tien Wong

District Judge, State Courts Singapore

The paper describes Community Justice and Tribunal Division (CJTD) experience in developing a community justice strategy encompassing both adversarial and non-adversarial justice tools in resolving disputes, and working with stakeholders to build a cohesive society.

The CJTD is the newest justice division in the Singapore State Courts and oversees both community and relationship cases. A unique feature of the CJTD is that the judges will deal with both civil and criminal process components unlike other justice divisions.

The CJTD consists of the Small Claims Tribunals (SCT), the Community Disputes Resolution Tribunals (CDRT) and also handles applications under the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA).

The SCT provides a speedy and inexpensive process to handle small claims arising from disputes in contract for goods or services and residential tenancies. The claim will proceed for adjudication if there is no settlement by the SCT mediators. The SCT is not bound by strict rules of evidence or by normal court procedures, and there is no legal representation to keep costs to a minimum.

The CDRT is the last resort to deal with intractable neighbourly dispute cases. Mediation plays a critical role, and the CDRT may direct litigants to undergo counselling or mediation. The CDRT may also make special directions or impose a compliance bond or impose criminal sanctions or exclusion from residence orders.

The CJTD judges hear POHA applications under the civil court process and may grant a protection order to protect persons against harassment and unlawful stalking. There is also a simple self-help process for a subject of a falsehood to apply for the falsehood to be set right and the true facts brought out clearly.

The paper will also examine how CJTD has established working relationships with community stakeholders to offer therapeutic counselling services to address the underlying issues affecting the litigants.

Biography:

Ow Yong Tuck Leong is a District Judge in the Community Justice and Tribunals Division of the State Courts. Mr Ow Yong graduated from the National University of Singapore in 1998 and was admitted as an advocate and solicitor of the Supreme Court in 1999. He joined the Singapore Legal Service in 2000 and has served in the Registry of Companies and Businesses, the Attorney-General’s Chamber and the Competition Commission of Singapore before his appointment in the State Courts in 2011.

Due Process v Therapeutic Process Redux

Dr Nigel Stobbs1

1QUT, Durack, Australia

This paper examines the perceived tension between due process and therapeutic process in problem solving courts. Although individual courts and programs can and do become dysfunctional in terms of their adherence to best practice, and the wider criminal justice system is often notoriously unable to guarantee effective representation to criminal defendants, I argue that courts which operate according to principles of therapeutic jurisprudence are not only consistent with due process and procedural justice, these are symbiotic requirements. Continuing criticisms of the problem solving jurisdictions in the US, I suggest, are likely grounded in more than a conflation of flaws in individual programs and defence competence with defects in the therapeutic model however. The persistence of this sort of criticism is not a result of simple ignorance or misunderstanding.

Biography:

Nigel is a researcher in the Crime and Justice Research Centre at the Queensland University of Technology. His research interests include therapeutic jurisprudence, sentencing law and policy and Chinese law.

Effective Participation of Vulnerable Accused Persons

Felicity Gerry QC1, Professor Penny Cooper2,

1 Queen’s Counsel London and Darwin speciliasing in complex cases involving vulnerable suspects. Leads the Indigenous Justice and Exoneration Project at Charles Darwin University. Affiliated member research group on Fundamental Rights and Constitutionalism at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Member of Management Committee of The Advocate’s Gateway producing toolkits for advocacy with vulnerable people and expert in an EU wide project on rights of children with mental disabilities. 9, Carmelite Street, London fgerryqc@carmelitechambers.co.uk and School of Law, Charles Darwin University, Casuarina, Darwin felicity.gerry@cdu.edu.au

2 Co-founder and chair of “The Advocate’s Gateway”, Inns of Court College of Advocacy, London; Visiting Professor of Law and leader of ‘Law in Practice’ module at University of Roehampton, London; visiting senior research fellow at Institute for Criminal Policy Research, Birkbeck, University of London; Honorary Visiting Professor of Law at City University, London; Barrister, Academic Associate at 39 Essex Chambers, London.   

The vulnerable accused: What needs to change in an adversarial system?

Research and practice developments in the last decade are slowly shifting the criminal justice process in relation to vulnerable accused. The authors critically analyse the current position and suggest there is still need for fundamental change. In cases involving vulnerable accused, it is not sufficient for a judge only to give a ‘special arrangements’ direction. Case preparation requires careful attention to how an accused person’s vulnerability is relevant to investigatory interviews, decisions to prosecute, fitness to participate in the trial, criminal responsibility, particular defences and the accused’s presentation in court.  Fair trials depend on proper arrangements that take into account the vulnerability of the accused and remove barriers to their effective participation.  The authors will propose a framework for a multilayered approach to  defending a vulnerable person that goes far beyond determination of fitness to plead; it will include the latest research and practice in investigative interviewing when the suspect is vulnerable, the use of interpreters,  the use of intermediaries, research on perceptions of judges and juries when the accused is vulnerable (in particular has when the accused has autism spectrum condition), the effective use of expert evidence and recent developments in appellate case law in relation to procedural fairness. Both authors have pioneered alternative approaches in England and Wales which have become embedded into the criminal justice system and have brought their expertise to other jurisdictions. This paper sets out the minimum requirements for a fair trial, the procedure that ought to be adopted in case investigation, preparation and presentation and the importance of expert evidence for vulnerable accused people. The authors will suggest that such adjustments are vital to the fairness of hearings and to the avoidance of miscarriages of justice.

Biography:

Queen’s Counsel London and Darwin specializing in serious and complex cases involving vulnerable suspects. Leads the Indigenous Justice and Exoneration Project at Charles Darwin University. Affiliated member research group on Fundamental Rights and Constitutionalism at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Member of Management Committee of The Advocate’s Gateway producing toolkits for advocacy with vulnerable people and expert in an EU wide project on rights of children with mental disabilities.

The Singapore Community Justice and Tribunal Division Experience

Miss Li Tien Wong, Mr Tuck Leong Ow Yong1

1State Courts, Singapore, Singapore, Singapore

The paper describes Community Justice and Tribunal Division (CJTD) experience in developing a community justice strategy encompassing both adversarial and non-adversarial justice tools in resolving disputes, and working with stakeholders to build a cohesive society.

The CJTD is the newest justice division in the Singapore State Courts and oversees both community and relationship cases. A unique feature of the CJTD is that the judges will deal with both civil and criminal process components unlike other justice divisions.

The CJTD consists of the Small Claims Tribunals (SCT), the Community Disputes Resolution Tribunals (CDRT) and also handles applications under the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA).

The SCT provides a speedy and inexpensive process to handle small claims arising from disputes in contract for goods or services and residential tenancies. The claim will proceed for adjudication if there is no settlement by the SCT mediators. The SCT is not bound by strict rules of evidence or by normal court procedures, and there is no legal representation to keep costs to a minimum.

The CDRT is the last resort to deal with intractable neighbourly dispute cases. Mediation plays a critical role, and the CDRT may direct litigants to undergo counselling or mediation. The CDRT may also make special directions or impose a compliance bond or impose criminal sanctions or exclusion from residence orders.

The CJTD judges hear POHA applications under the civil court process and may grant a protection order to protect persons against harassment and unlawful stalking. There is also a simple self-help process for a subject of a falsehood to apply for the falsehood to be set right and the true facts brought out clearly.

The paper will also examine how CJTD has established working relationships with community stakeholders to offer therapeutic counselling services to address the underlying issues affecting the litigants.

Biography:

Ow Yong Tuck Leong is a District Judge in the Community Justice and Tribunals Division of the State Courts. Mr Ow Yong graduated from the National University of Singapore in 1998 and was admitted as an advocate and solicitor of the Supreme Court in 1999. He joined the Singapore Legal Service in 2000 and has served in the Registry of Companies and Businesses, the Attorney-General’s Chamber and the Competition Commission of Singapore before his appointment in the State Courts in 2011.

Sustainable Justice: the Future for Courts

Dr Andrew J Cannon AM FAAL1

1 Adjunct Professor at Flinders University South Australia and Muenster University Germany, Deputy Chief Magistrate and Senior Mining Warden South Australia

The purpose of the original European legal system was to moderate the exercise power in a consistent and just way and to resolve conflict credibly so order was preserved throughout the Roman Empire.  That primary purpose found its way into the nation state legal systems under the common law arrangements that developed in England and the later civil code systems spread by the Napoleonic conquests in Europe.

Old power arrangements are changing.  We moved from the justification of ruling by divine right to a social contract.  The nation state is declining as the sole source of legitimate exercise of power over the life, liberty and property of citizens and power is shifting to larger negotiated power structures such as the UN, IMF, EU and international courts and arbitration.  Old social values of Loyalty, Authority and Sanctity are being supplanted by liberal global notions of care, fairness and liberty.

Meanwhile our inherited court processes inflame conflict rather than reduce it.  Adversarial processes drive people into extreme positions. Monetarising justice devalues it and provides incentives to lie.  Our focus on the past magnifies the harm already done and distracts from what is necessary to repair it.  The decision by the judge removes responsibility from the participants.  The media and politicians use fear of crime and terrorism to prop up their declining legitimacy as they foster fear and offer only the solution of punishment.

Courts need to move beyond a primary focus on due process in the exercise of power to maintain order to methods of improving social harmony.  This paper will discuss how the guiding principle of Sustainable Justice is a way to bring together the many strands of non-adversarial justice to address the underlying causes of conflict, to repair harm and improve people who appear before the courts.

Biography:

Dr Andrew J Cannon AM is Deputy Chief Magistrate and Senior Mining Warden in South Australia. He has managed and conducted therapeutic and restorative justice programs in the Magistrates Court, including mental health, drug, family violence and gambling courts and Aboriginal Sentencing Conferences.  He established the civil procedure for the court in the Magistrates Court (Civil) Rules 1992.  He has a long experience in resolving disputes between landowners and miners and in the opal mining fields at Coober Pedy, Mintabie and Andamooka.  He is accredited as an experienced qualified mediator under the National Standard.

Andrew has a PhD from the University of Wollongong on court policy and is an Adjunct Professor at the Flinders University Law School South Australia and at Münster University in Germany.  He has a Doctor of Laws honoris causa from Flinders University and is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law.  He is a Member of the Order of Australia (General Division).  He is widely published and speaks in relevant fields nationally and internationally.

About the Association

The Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration (AIJA) is a research and educational institute associated with Monash University. It is funded by the Law, Crime and Community Safety Council (LCCSC) and also from subscription income from its membership.

The principal objectives of the Institute include research into judicial administration and the development and conduct of educational programmes for judicial officers, court administrators and members of the legal profession in relation to court administration and judicial systems.

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