In Parliament on Monday, Minister for Law Mr K Shanmugam was askedwhether he would consider introducing a law to ban the publicationof photographs and details of any accused person until the accusedperson was convicted in a court of law. The question was prompted by the recent publicity over the 48 menaccused of having commercial sex with a minor. In response, Mr Shanmugam said: “Our legal system operates on theprinciple of public justice. Accused persons are publicly tried.The verdict of the court is publicly announced. Reporting ofongoing proceedings is allowed so long as it does not prejudice theproper administration of justice. ISDB-T Receiver
The exceptions to the principleare limited – they mainly apply to protect sensitive informationrelating to national security, as well as the identities of youngpersons and the victims of sexual offences.” He added that it was undeniable that accused persons often sufferedfrom the adverse publicity arising from their cases. He suggested two possible ways to prevent the accused from beingpublicly identified until conviction. The first way was to empower the court to make a gag order,prohibiting the publication of any information that may identifythe accused, while allowing the public and the press to attend theproceedings. The second possibility was to hold the proceedings in camera andprevent the public and the press from attending the proceedingsaltogether. Mr Shanmugam said: “The first way will not be effective. ISDB-T Receiver Manufacturer
Theidentity of the accused will still be known to all who attendcourt. From there, it can easily become public. And imposing a gagorder on those who do observe the court proceedings would mean(even if the order is effective) that there is a differential inknowledge between those who attend court and those who do not. Thatis not very satisfactory. “The second way could possibly be effective. DVB-T Digital Receiver Manufacturer
But it would alsoamount to having secret trials, where accused persons are triedbehind closed doors. We then have to decide the types of caseswhere there will be such trials… To move to a situation wheremost or all criminal trials will be held in secret is not verysatisfactory.” He concluded that justice must be done, and must be seen to bedone. He added that there must be an increase in public awareness that acharge is not the same as a conviction, and that an accused personis presumed innocent until found guilty by the court.
But he recognised that increasing such awareness was asignificantly uphill task.