What is Criminal Law Part 5: General Defences 2

This article is a continuation of the topic on ‘General Exceptions’ used in an accused person’s defence. 

  • Acts causing slight harm – This simply refers to cases where the act caused harm that is so slight that no reasonable person would bother even complaining about it. This exception was created to provide relief to offenders whose acts can be considered, at best, trivial.
  • Acts of a person of unsound mind – This exception applies when the person who committed the act, at the time of doing it, was of unsound mind and incapable of knowing the nature of the act. This can include delusions, hallucinations, mania and forms of insane automatism that also include sleepwalking and hypnotism.

Only the accused person may raise this defence, but whether the accused was responsible for the act is still to be determined by the court.

  • Intoxication – Generally, voluntarily-induced intoxication through the consumption of stimulants cannot be, by itself, an excuse for committing the crime. However, this exception may apply in cases where the person was intoxicated without their consent, through a malicious or negligent act by another person.
  • Communication made in good faith – The intention of the law is to protect the well-meaning person who communicates information which may result in the recipient suffering some harm. For example, if a surgeon, in good faith, explains to the patient that they don’t have long to live, and that the patient does die in shock of the news, the surgeon has not committed any offence.
  • Capacity to commit crime – According to the Penal Code, no child under the age of 7 years can be guilty of a criminal offence and, therefore, is immune from all criminal liability and prosecution. There is also a more limited form of immunity for children between the ages of 7 to 12 years old.
  • Immunity of judges – The Penal Code protects persons who are acting in a judicial capacity from criminal liability. This means that a judge, when acting judicially in the exercise of any power given to him/her by law is protected from being hampered by fear of the consequences which might arise from arriving at a mistaken conclusion.

For acts done in pursuance to a judgement or order of a court, the Penal Code provides that the person does the act in good faith and believes the Court had such jurisdiction.

  • General right of private defence – This exception applies when an act is committed in the right to private defence of person and property in certain specified circumstances.

A person has the right of private defence against an act done, or attempted by a public servant, or under the direction of one. This right is also available against persons who are incapable of committing offences due to physical or mental disabilities. 

The law recognises that in certain situations, this right may extend to either voluntarily causing harm or death to the assailant by the person exercising this right to protect their body or property. The burden of proof is then upon the accused to establish he was exercising this right, or the act falls within an exception provided by the law.

To know more about what we do, or to get a consultation, feel free to contact us to speak to our team of lawyers led by Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu.

Mr Amarjit has a vast knowledge in Singapore’s laws and has defended numerous clients, including some highly-publicised criminal cases. He has guided clients over the years with his valuable experience and compassionate approach, and is supported by a strong team of lawyers.

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