Second Reading Speech by Senior Minister of State for Law, Mr Edwin Tong, on Statutes (Miscellanous Amendments) Bill
06 Jan 2020 Posted in Parliamentary speeches and responses
- On behalf of the Minister for Law, I beg to move, “That the Bill be now read a second time”.
- This Bill contains a number of amendments to several Acts. Most of the amendments are minor and technical in nature. One amendment, which I will seek to introduce at the Committee stage, is for the purpose of amending un-commenced legislation so that common law developments are not abolished once the legislation is brought into force. Let me take Members through the amendments.
II. Amendment to the Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act
- First, Clause 2 of the Bill amends section 55(7)(b) of the Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act, or BMSMA for short, to correct a typographical error.
- The existing section 55(7)(b) of the BMSMA provides that an individual cannot be appointed as a treasurer if:
(i) He is already the chairperson or secretary; and
(ii) The re-appointment would result in the individual holding office as a treasurer for 3 consecutive terms.
- The two limbs of this section should be disjunctive, and not conjunctive. Clause 2 of the Bill therefore corrects this error, by substituting the word “and” between the two limbs with the word “or”.
III. Amendment to the Control of Plants Act
- Next, let me touch on the amendments to the Control of Plants Act.
- The existing definition of “prohibited pesticide” in section 2 of the Act refers to the Tenth Schedule of the Food Regulations. However, the Food Regulations have since been revised, and the previous Tenth Schedule is now the Ninth Schedule.
- Clause 3 of the Bill introduces an amendment to the Control of Plants Act to update the existing reference from the Tenth Schedule to the Ninth Schedule.
IV. Amendments to National Arts Council Act and Singapore Sports Council Act
Flexibility to appoint Deputy Chairman for SSC and NAC
- Third, let me come to the amendments to the National Arts Council Act and the Singapore Sports Council Act.
- Clauses 4 and 7 of the Bill amend each respective Act such that it will no longer be mandatory to appoint a Deputy Chairman for the National Arts Council or the Singapore Sports Council. Instead, the Minister will have the flexibility to appoint a Deputy Chairman in appropriate situations. This flexibility will allow MCCY to better address the needs of these two statutory boards. A savings provision has been included to preserve the appointment of existing members and office-holders of the NAC and the SSC.
- The Singapore Sports Council Act will also be amended to provide that the Chief Executive Officer of the Singapore Sports Council may be appointed as a member of the Council, in an ex officio capacity.
V. Amendments to the Penal Code
Preserving the applicability of the right of private defence to offences outside of the Penal Code
- Next, let me turn to the amendments to the Penal Code.
- Clause 5(1) of the Bill rectifies a potential technical drafting gap that could arise once section 8 of the Criminal Law Reform Act 2019, or CLRA for short, comes into force. The amendment is for the sole purpose of removing this potential technical drafting gap, which I will explain to Members.
- The existing section 40(2) of the Penal Code allows for the right of private defence to be raised as a defence to non-Penal Code offences. This right of private defence is currently set out in Chapter IV of the Penal Code.
- The CLRA moves the provisions relating to the right of private defence to the new Chapter IVA of the Penal Code. Before this move can take effect, a new reference to “Chapter IVA” must be inserted into the existing section 40(2) of the Penal Code as a consequential amendment, to clarify that the provisions relating to the right of private defence will continue to apply for non-Penal Code offences.
- This amendment is intended to preserve the status quo under the current Penal Code, so that the right to private defence can be raised as a defence for non-Penal Code offences.
Retaining the doctrine of wilful blindness
- I will also be proposing an amendment to the Bill during Committee stage, to amend section 26D of the Penal Code, which has not yet been brought into force. This amendment will ensure that when section 26D of the Penal Code is brought into force, there will be no change or deviation from the current law on wilful blindness, which was the intention when this House passed the CLRA.
- Let me explain this to Members.
- Section 26D of the Penal Code was introduced under the CLRA to codify the common law definition of knowledge. Its current form reflects the Penal Code Review Committee’s decision not to provide for the concept of “wilful blindness” as part of section 26D. The Committee had assessed the case law, and especially the Court of Appeal’s decision in 2011 in Nagaenthran a/l K Dharmalingam v PP, and concluded that “wilful blindness” was simply an evidential tool used to infer that an accused had knowledge. The Committee concluded that there was thus no need to provide for the concept of “wilful blindness” in section 26D.
- After the passage of the CLRA, however, the Court of Appeal delivered its decision in Adili Chibuike Ejike v PP. The Court of Appeal held that “wilful blindness” is properly described as a mental state falling short of knowledge but which is legally deemed to be equivalent to knowledge. The Court described this as an “extended conception of wilful blindness”, where “it can almost be said” that the accused persons knew the fact in question. This position represents the law today.
- Therefore, if section 26D is brought into force as it was originally drafted, this would abolish the “extended conception of wilful blindness” under this case authority. This outcome would be contrary to the policy intention of section 26D, which is to codify the law, rather than to change or narrow the position under the law.
- I will therefore be proposing an amendment to section 26D to preserve the position under the current law, which includes the “extended conception of wilful blindness”. The amendment does not in any way prejudice accused persons, as it does not expand the common law.
- For completeness, Mr Deputy Speaker, I should point out that the Court of Appeal had explained that there are three elements to the “extended conception of wilful blindness”, and these are namely:
a. One, the accused must have had a clear, grounded and targeted suspicion of the fact to which he is said to have been wilfully blind;
b. Two, there must have been reasonable means of inquiry available to the accused person, which, if taken, would have led him to discovery of the truth, at least in the context of the fact of possession; and
c. Three, the accused must have deliberately refused to pursue the reasonable means of inquiry so as to avoid having such negative legal consequences as might arise in connection with his knowing that fact.
The Court of Appeal limited this “extended conception of wilful blindness” to the context of knowledge for the purpose of proving possession under section 18(1) of the Misuse of Drugs Act in this case, and recognised that it may be different with respect to knowledge of the nature of the drug under section 18(2) of the Misuse of Drugs Act.
- However, Members would note that the proposed amendment to section 26D does not set out all these three elements. This is to allow for further development of the doctrine of “wilful blindness” by the common law. This is important because the Court of Appeal had suggested that the doctrine might apply slightly differently in practice, depending on what specific fact an accused is said to have been wilfully blind towards.
VI. Amendments to the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises Act
Alignment of financial year
- Next, let me turn to the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises Act Clause 6 of the Bill amends the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises Act, or SCORE Act for short, such that SCORE’s financial year will run from 1st April of each year to 31st March of the following year. This will align SCORE’s financial year with that of the Government and other MHA agencies.
Rebranding of SCORE
- Finally, as part of SCORE’s rebranding exercise, an amendment will be introduced to the SCORE Act to allow SCORE to perform its functions or carry out its duties under one or more business names specified by the Minister for Home Affairs by notification in the Gazette.
- SCORE’s new name will be announced once the rebranding exercise is complete.
- Sir, in conclusion, this Bill amends the 6 Acts in the manner that I have just described, including the amendment at the Committee Stage, for the reasons I have outlined.
- Sir, I beg to move.
Last updated on 06 Jan 2020