Is it true that if arrested, one would have the right to a lawyer immediately? It may be true on TV as suggested by numerous police dramas, but not so in the real world and in our local context. 

Under the Singapore's consitution, everyone is allowed legal counsel and representation. 

Where a person is arrested, he shall be informed as soon as may be of the grounds of his arrest and shall be allowed to consult and be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice. – Article 9(3) of the Singapore Constitution

However, this does not mean that one would have access to a lawyer immediately ( i.e. when the person is arrested).  The Constitution itself does not stipulate when an accused is entitled to consult a legal practitioner, and how the Constitution should be interpreted is established in court cases. 

 In fact, in the case of Jasbir Singh v PP (1994) 1 SLR(R) 782, it was established that what Article 9(3) means is an arrested person is to be granted access to a lawyer within a reasonable time from his arrest. However, what is meant by “reasonable time” must be balanced with time needed by the police to carry out the investigation of the case effectively.  

In essence, when determining the rights of access to legal counsel, both the individual's rights and the police's role in protecting the larger public are considered.


This article is accurate as of Nov 2013.

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