Law: defined as orders
threats (to make you
comply) - it comes from
many sources, including
even customary and
religious practices and
other cultural practices
acceptable as norms of the
society and made as law
for all to comply/follow.
** Legal Systems
Common Law System
"judge-made" law system
- judges in such system
are more active in making
laws and later follow and
refine the laws.
*** Types of law
(State vs you)
"offences against the State"
standard of proof: to prove that
a crime is committed, with NO
doubt at all. Higher standard
than civil law
where society does
not want you to
behave in a particular
way, else you'll be
rights and obligations
that parties have
dealings with each other
standard of proof: on the
balance of probabilities
to prove the likelihood of
someone breaching the law,
with little doubt.
Civil Law System
statute or govt created law,
the govt takes a more active
central role in deciding what
is law and the judges only
takes an active role in
interpreting the codes and
declare and follow the law
***** Sources of Law in Singapore
The Singapore Constitution
(obeyed by govt)
1st set of law placed in Constitution upon SG independence
source of law, most
basic laws in SG
Article 4: if any other law in SG conflicts with
SG Constitution, then that law is to be voided
guides govt in creating laws to deal with
rights of its citizens and election process
validly applied in SG
SG was historically occupied by British forces
hence British law and custom becomes part of SG.
UK statutes validly applicable
in SG via Application of
English Law Act
So long as it does not conflict
with the current SG law, then it
can be applied to/as SG law
e.g. Misrepresentation Act 1967
e.g. Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977
Custom and Customary Law
Customary practices change from time to time when society
grows old each day. Some customs become so imptly
acceptable in society that it is recognised by govt who later
creates law to recognise such acceptable customs.
e.g. wedding customs
Legislature is one main power of govt created
by the SG Constitution which is in charge of
creating laws (statutes, legislation, Acts of
Parliament) that binds all residing in SG
Legislature, thru Members of Parliament (MPs) suggesting certain proposals or issues to be made into laws
(Bills of Parliament or suggestions) in Parliament for discussion and such bills goes thru a process of three
readings (and if need be, also Committee and/or Sub-Committee Stage before 3rd Reading to be included) in
the Lower House before sending such bills to be approved by the President of SG (Upper House).
justify their thoughts with statistics
At Upper House, if the bill to be approved is of national interest or sensitive
racial issues or if it concerns a minor race in SG, the Presidential Council for
Minority Rights could be formed to reconsider such bills.
Once President agrees to the bill to be law, then such bill will be published in the
Gazette and at such date of publication, the law is born - Act of Parliament
Some cabinet ministers (in charge of portfolios which deal with national functions)
could have legal powers to be able to create by-laws (delegated or subsidiary
legislation) so as to improve the running of their respective ministries within their
control. They are able to pass the law, without going through the debate.
Common Law & Equity
SG also adopts part of British
Common Law System
In UK long time ago, the early judges are the
ones who actively decide on law based on
acceptable rules of customs (judge-made
laws) and once laws are created, the judges
of future cases shall follow the law accordingly
decided by the judges in previous/past cases
(binding precedent). Common Law is judge
made law (strictly applied without mercy or
listening to case facts)
*** To start an action, one will have to issue a "writ" against the
other with in intent to sue him in court. A writ contains all the
particulars of the action and legal reasons to sue.
Such laws are uniformly and strictly applied without mercy as
common law became known as the strict arm of law.
Equity introduced to adjust the strictness of the
Common Law by making sure that the law is fairly
applied, that make sure that justice is served and to
make sure that judgement is fairly and equitably served
=> what s "fair and just" or reasonable.
Early times in UK, Equity introduced by different judges from
Common Law courts. Now, Common Law and Equity are dealt
with by a single court by the same set of judges.
Earl of Oxford (1965), the King in UK had
decided that where Common Law and Equity
conflict with each other in a case, then Equity
shall be upheld as the final answer.
Judicial Precedent: general description of judicial
system/process, but never explain how to follow. It is a
decision of a court, declared by the judge in dealing with
common law and equity rules in relation to the
circumstances of a case (ration decidendi)
Ratio decidendi (or ration of a case) is
the declaration of law by the judge in
relation to facts of a case.
If current case facts are exactly the same as past
case facts of the Higher Court decision, whatever the
law is declared by the Higher Court case decision
shall be binding to be followed by the current case.
In order to know how and what to follow in
the previous Higher Court decisions, one
must look at the ratio decidendi of a case.
Ratio of a case is different from what the judges may say of certain statements
or legal principles which have no direct bearing on the present case - such "by
the way" statements are known as "Obiter dicta", which is only persuasive.
or "Obiter dictum" is what the judges may say have
nothing to do with the case facts (no direct value), or
nothing much to do with the facts of the case.
Donoghue v. Stevenson (1932): a housewife sued the manufacturer of ginger beer for negligently
causing her nervous shock. The ratio is that the manufacturer owes a duty of care to the consumer
of his goods who is not in a position to inspect those goods. (Law of Tort of Negligence)
However, Lord Atkin went on to say that everyone owes a duty of care to
his "neighbour" - What Lord Atkin stated has no direct bearing on the facts
of the case as the case specifically is about manufacturer and consumer
situation, so what Lord Atkin stated here is merely obiter dictum.
In some cases, there even seems to be no actual ratio - Boys v.
Chaplin (1964) case, whereby all 5 judges give the same
result/outcome but 5 different reasoning of law.
What the judges in past Higher Courts cases
had decided before, is law to be followed in
the Lower Courts present and future cases.
Binding Precedent (or stare
decisis): explains how to follow the
law from past Higher Courts cases
Court of Appeal (COA), the highest court,
need not follow its own past decisions or
past Privy Council cases before 1993
Privy Council - Before 1993, highest court of law in
Singapore (located in London). Abolished in 1993.
the only way a judge need not follow a
past binding precedent is to either:
say that the previous case is not the same
facts with present case - to show
difference in facts or circumstances
dispute the ratio of the past binding
precedent by saying it is in conflict with
other cases and should not be accepted
saying that the present case was decided
per incuriam - meaning to say that the
judge in this case did not fully consider
certain statutory provision applying or not
wanting to follow a past binding precedent.
Methods to guide judges to
interpret statutes correctly when
it is applicable to a case
*** Statute (Section 9A of Interpretation Act)
to help the judges to find out the purpose or object for which that particular
statute/govt law was created. By understanding the original meaning of such
statute from materials like docs printed by Govt Printer, govt docs, Minister's
speech in Parliament on the statute before it becomes law, any other
records, any international laws or treaties referred to and so on
S.9A is seen to be used by a judge in the case of Raffles City Pte Ltd v. Attorney-General of
S'pore (1993) whereby confusion on what it really means by the word, "storey" in that statute, Para
5 of the Property Tax Order 1967 - "Storey" meaning to look at eye level the overall storey height
of the whole devt or to calculate each storey in each tower blocks and podium of the whole devt
Past Common Law Cases
**** Maxims of Interpretation
1) **** The Ejusdem Generis Rule ("Of the same kind") - when a list of fixed/specific examples or items
belonging to the same class is followed by general words (like, cats, dogs, and other animals), any more
examples or items coming from the general words must still be of the same type of examples or items of the
same class (other animals here is interpreted as four legged domestic animals) - Evans v. Cross case.
2) ***** The Noscitur a Sociis Rule ("Words are known by the company they keep" - meaning to say that a
general word may be differently interpreted when it is used in different statutes (meaning that words may have
different meanings when found in different statutes) - e.g. the general words, "public places" could mean "parks
and recreational spaces" if it is seen in the statute, "Recreational Parks Act" and it could mean, "govt buildings
and installations" if it is seen in another different statute, "Building Control Act".
3) *** The Expressio unius est exclusion alterius Rule ("what is expressed as an example
excludes other alternatives") - "The clear/express/specific mention of an item" or example
or that class for a word seems to exclude any other item or example or class for the
meaning of that word (the word only clearly belongs to the example given and the word
does not represent other examples) - e.g. if a statute defines the word "vehicle" as "cars
only", then "vehicle" does not include "vans", or "buses" or "motorcycles".
***** 4 Canons of Interpretation
1) *** The Literal Rule - "what you read is what it means". If by reading the
statute in its ordinary straightforward meaning and to apply it in its ordinary
meaning would lead to absurd results, then the Golden Rule will be used.
2) ***** The Golden Rule - an exception to the Literal Rule, whereby applying the
straightforward meaning of the statute would be absurd, then the courts will
decide differently from such straightforward meaning - re Sigsworth (1935) case.
3) **** The Mischief Rule - a broaden exception of the Golden Rule - to find the purpose
for which that particular law was created as statute by the govt/Parliament which is to "fill
the gap" of what Common Law did not achieve - Gardiner v. Sevenoaks case
4) The Unified Approach - the judge will apply all the above rules one by one in a structured manner and
if necessary use other aids or instruments to assist in the interpreting of statutes by the judge.