MP Sylvia Lim

Ms Sylvia Lim asked the Minister for Law regarding investigations into deaths due to unnatural or unknown causes in the last two years (a) in how many and what proportion of such cases has a Coroner’s Inquiry not been held; (b) what are the matters taken into account by the coroner under section 25(3)(f) of the Coroners Act in deciding that it is not necessary in the public interest to hold an Inquiry under section 25(2)(b) of the Act; and (c) how often has the Public Prosecutor intervened to require an Inquiry in cases where the coroner had decided that an Inquiry is not necessary.

Mr K Shanmugam: In 2019 and 2020 (as at 24 December 2020), there were 1,961 investigations into unnatural deaths which were reported to the Coroner. Out of these 1,961 investigations, a Coroner’s Inquiry (“CI”) was not held for 1,413 (or 72%) investigations.

Section 25(1) of the Coroners Act sets out the types of cases where the Coroner must hold a CI. In other types of cases, Section 25(2) allows the Coroner to decide not to hold a CI, if the Coroner is satisfied that (a) the death was due to natural causes and it is unnecessary to do so, or (b) in the circumstances it is not necessary in the public interest to do so. 

Section 25(3) states that in deciding whether to hold a CI, the Coroner may have regard to the following matters: (a) in the case of a death that appears to have been unnatural or violent, whether or not it appears to have been due to the action or inaction of any other person; (b) the extent to which the drawing of attention to the circumstances of the death may be likely to reduce the chances of the occurrence of other deaths in similar circumstances; (c) the desire of any member of the immediate family of the deceased that a CI should be conducted; (d) whether or not the death occurred outside Singapore or was caused by matters arising outside Singapore; (e) whether or not an inquiry or investigation into the death has been or will be conducted by a coroner or a corresponding authority of a foreign country; and (f) any other matter the Coroner thinks fit. 

An example of a matter which may be taken into account by the Coroner under Section 25(3)(f) would be the desire of the family members of the deceased for no CI to be conducted.  

A Coroner who decides not to hold a CI under Section 25(2) shall report the facts to the Public Prosecutor with the Coroner’s reasons for not holding a CI. Where the Coroner does not hold a CI, the Coroner will still issue detailed written findings to explain the cause of death and the manner by which the person came by his or her death.

The Public Prosecutor may require the Coroner to hold a CI, if the Public Prosecutor is satisfied that a CI is necessary or desirable. In 2019 and 2020 (as at 24 December 2020), there were no cases where the Public Prosecutor required the Coroner to hold a CI, after the Coroner had decided not to hold a CI under Section 25(2).

Ministry of Law
4 January 2021

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