Where will you be Judged

The Judicial System of Singapore

The Judiciary is made up of the Supreme Court and the State Courts. The Supreme Court hears both civil and criminal matters and is separated into the Court of Appeal and the High Court. The State Courts consist of District Courts, Magistrate’s Courts, Juvenile Courts, Coroners’ Courts and Small Claims Tribunals.


The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of Singapore consists of 2 divisions, the upper being the Court of Appeal, the lower being the High Court.


The Court of Appeal

The Court of Appeal is the highest court in the nation. It consists of the Chief Justice of Singapore, who is the President of the Courts, and the Judges of Appeal. As the name suggests, the Court of Appeal hears appeals from the decisions of the High Court in both civil and criminal matters.


The Court exercises only appellate jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters. What this means is that it possesses no original jurisdiction – it does not deal with trials of matters coming before the court for the first time.


The Court hears civil appeals from decisions that started in the High Court, as well as decisions that were appealed from the States Court of Singapore to the High Court.


For criminal matters, the Court only hears appeals from cases originating in the High Court.


Matters heard by the High Court on appeal from the State Courts cannot be further appealed to the Court of Appeal, though questions of law may be submitted to the Court for determination.


The High Court

The High Court is the lower division of the Supreme Court of Singapore. It consists of the Chief Justice of Singapore and the Judges of the High Court.


The High Court hears both criminal and civil cases, as well as appeals from the decisions of District Courts and Magistrates’ Courts.


Jurisdiction-wise, the High Court exercises both original and appellate jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters. By possessing original jurisdiction, the court is able to hear cases at first instance. The Court is able to exercise its appellate jurisdiction when it hears appeals from trials originating in the State Courts such as the District Courts and the Magistrates’ Courts.


Generally, for civil cases, the High Court deals with matters where the value of the subject matter of the claim exceeds $250,000 SGD. For criminal cases, the High Court tries criminal cases whose punishment involves the death sentence or more than 10 years of imprisonment.


It has jurisdiction to try all offences committed in Singapore and certain cases, offences committed outside Singapore as well.


The State Courts

Originally called the Subordinate Courts, the State Courts consist of the District Courts, Magistrates’ Courts, Juvenile Courts, Coroners’ Courts and Small Claims Tribunals. In recent years, other courts have been added to the State Courts. These courts include the Family Court, Night Court, Community Court, Syariah Court and Traffic Court.


The District Court

The civil jurisdiction of the District Court consist claims of more than $60,000 SGD but not exceeding $250,000 SGD. As for criminal jurisdiction, this court can try offences where the maximum imprisonment term is 10 years or below or that are punishable by only a fine. As for sentencing, this court can sentence a person to;
  • A maximum prison sentence of 7 years,
  • Impose a maximum fine of up to $10,000 SGD,
  • A caning of up to 12 strokes,
  • Attending reformative training,
  • A combination of the above


The Magistrates’ Courts

Civil cases which involve claims not exceeding $60,000 SGD are heard by the Magistrates’ Court. This court’s criminal jurisdiction tries offences with a maximum imprisonment of 3 years or below or offences punishable by only a fine. The maximum sentencing punishment for this court is a maximum of 2-years custodial sentence or impose a maximum fine of $2,000 SGD or issue a maximum of 6 strokes of the cane.


The Coroners’ Court

This court deals with cases that are classified by the Police as Coroner’s cases. The Coroner’s Court will hold an inquiry when there is a reason to suspect that a person has died in a sudden or unnatural manner, by violence, when the cause of death is unknown and in situations where the law receives an inquiry.Examples of these cases are suspected suicides, road traffic and industrial accidents, and death which has occurred in prison.


The Small Claims Tribunals (Tribunals)

The Tribunals were established on the 1st February 1985 to provide a quick and inexpensive forum for the resolution of small claims between consumers and suppliers.

The jurisdiction of the Tribunals is to hear claims not exceeding $10,000. The claim cannot be split or divided to bring it within the Tribunal’s jurisdiction. Where the Claimant and the Respondent consent in writing, the jurisdiction can be raised to $20,000.


The Family Justice Courts (FJC)

The “Family Justice Courts” is the collective name for a body of courts which comprise the Family Division of the High Court, the Family Courts and the Youth Courts. The Family Justice Courts will hear the full suite of family-related cases including all divorce and related matters, family violence cases, adoption and guardianship cases, Youth Court cases, applications for deputyship under the Mental Capacity Act, and probate and succession matters.


The Juvenile Court

This court deals specifically with offences allegedly committed by “children” (under 14 years of age) or “young persons” (14 to 16 years of age). It covers Beyond Parental Control Cases (BPC), Juvenile Arrest Cases (JAC) and Care and Protection Order Cases (CPO).
(a) BPC are cases that refers to a child or young person who is below the age of 16 years who may be in persistent conflict with his/her parent(s) and school or other authorities and who may be displaying at-risk behaviours.
(b) JAC are cases involving the criminal crimes committed by “children” or “young persons”.
(c) CPO is an order granted for children/young persons who are abused or neglected, assaulted, ill-treated, abandoned or exposed to unnecessary physical suffering or emotional injury.


The Family Court

This court deals with adoptions, divorce, children’s issues, division of the matrimonial property, personal protection orders, resolution and joint conferences (mediation), spousal and child maintenance, family violence and enforcement of Syariah Court orders.


The Night Court

There are two night courts that operate from Monday to Friday after 6pm for the benefit of the working public to deal with the large volume of regulatory cases. They have different roles, in which the first Night Court deals with summonses and notices issued by the various departments such as the Housing and Development Board, the Urban Redevelopment Authority, Central Provident Fund Board, and the Registry of Companies and Businesses. The second Night Court deals with road traffic offences brought by the Traffic Police and regulatory offences brought by the Land Transport Authority.


The Community Court

The Community Court adopts a problem-solving approach to special categories of cases and combine criminal justice and community resources in dealing with these cases. These cases include abuse and cruelty to animals, family violence cases, attempted suicide cases and neighbourhood disputes.


The Syariah Court

This court administers and resolves marriage and divorce disputes between parties who are either Muslims or who have married under the provisions of Muslim Law.


The Traffic Court

The Traffic Court hears and tries traffic offences brought by the Traffic Police as well as the Land Transport Authority.


How Can We Help You

Knowing the various procedures at each and every stage of your proceedings in the various Singapore Courts can be a complex and daunting tasking for most. It also does not help when involved in such proceedings the issue at hand is often about something that affects you personally. At I.R.B. Law LLP we have experienced lawyers will be able to guide you through and explain to you throughout each and every stage of your proceedings.


So contact us to receive advice on how your proceedings can be best handled so that you can focus on getting back up on your feet. Our first consultation is usually free as we wish to focus on you and not on your wallet. So don’t hesitate and reach us at [email protected] or call us at +65 6589 8913 and schedule an appointment with one of our experienced lawyers today.


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