Being witness to a crime can be stressful, especially if you were in a dangerous situation, and as a witness, you may even be called to file a statement with the police or testify in court.
But while the experience may be nerve-racking for you, it’s important to remember that your eyewitness account could play a key role in helping exonerate someone who is falsely accused, or be a critical piece of evidence that puts the guilty party behind bars.
Here’s what you should know about what to do once you’ve witnessed a crime in Singapore.
What should I do if I witnessed a crime?
1. Protect yourself
Always remember to protect yourself first. If you’re in a potentially dangerous situation, your top priority should be to run, hide, or call for help. Do not attempt to confront or detain the alleged perpetrator on your own.
2. Call the Police if the situation is life-threatening
If there is a medical emergency or life-threatening situation, contact the Police hotline as soon as possible. Be clear with the information you provide in the call, including the exact location of the crime. Follow any instructions given to you by the operator.
3. Record any evidence, if possible
Only in the event that you are not in any immediate danger should you attempt to record any evidence. Do not touch anything or disrupt the crime scene as it may compromise the investigation.
4. Cooperate fully with the police
Once the police arrive, it’s important to provide as many details as possible of what you heard and saw. Avoid inserting any personal assumptions, and do not lie about what you’ve witnessed. Hand over any evidence you may have recorded.
Should you witness a crime in Singapore, it’s important that you report it. Failure to do so can be construed as intentionally preventing the course of justice, an offence that comes with a jail sentence of up to 7 years, a fine, or both.
Will I be interviewed by the police?
The police may call upon you to provide a written witness statement as part of their investigation, and will usually schedule a date and time for you to come down to the station for an interview. Here are some tips on how to handle yourself during a police interview.
It is extremely important that you are completely truthful to the police at all times. Lying or providing false information is against the law in Singapore, and can incur a fine of up to S$5,000, imprisonment of up to 6 months, or both.
Will I need to testify in court?
Eyewitness accounts can be critical evidence in a criminal case, and in certain situations, you may receive a subpoena (a court order) to testify in court about what you’ve witnessed. You may also be asked to make a sworn statement of evidence.
If you do receive a subpoena, you must comply; otherwise you might be issued a warrant of arrest or summon to comply.
Testifying in court generally comprises 3 stages:
- Examination-in-chief: the side you are a witness for will ask you for your personal details and proceed to question you on your first-hand account of what happened.
- Cross-examination: the other side may question you and test your credibility, and you are allowed to disagree with any statements brought up by them.
- Re-examination: the side you are a witness for may ask for further clarification regarding matters raised during the cross-examination.
It is crucial that you are completely honest in your testimony at all times. In the event that you are unsure about your answer, let the lawyer questioning you know. Never falsify information.
If you require any advice regarding what to do upon witnessing a crime or receiving a subpoena, get in touch with our team of experienced criminal defence lawyers at Tembusu Law who can ensure you are given the right legal advice that best protects your rights and interests.