Singapore is a republic with a parliamentary system of Government. Her legal system is derived from the British and follows the English common law tradition.
The Constitution is the nation’s supreme law. It entrenches basic freedoms of the individual and provides for the organs of state. Any legislation contrary to the Constitution shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.
The Parliament is modelled after the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy where Members of Parliament are voted in at regular General Elections.
The head of the Executive is the President. The President is elected by the people and is empowered to veto government budgets and appointments to public office. The President must, however, consult the Council of Presidential Advisers before he takes a decision on some of these matters.
Cabinet is led by the Prime Minister and is responsible for all government policies and the day-to-day administration of the affairs of state and is responsible collectively to Parliament.
The Attorney-General is the principal legal advisor to the Government and has the power and discretion to prosecute offenders.
The highest court is the Court of Appeal which hears both civil and criminal appeals from the High Court and the Subordinate Courts.
The Subordinate Courts consists of the District Courts, Magistrates’ Courts, Juvenile Courts, Family Courts, Coroners Courts and the Small Claims Tribunal.
The Syariah Court hears actions and proceedings in which all the parties are Muslims or where the parties were married under the provisions of Muslim law.
A special Constitutional Tribunal, consisting of not less than 3 Judges of the Supreme Court, hears questions referred to by the President on the effect of any provision of the Constitution.
The Legal Profession
The legal profession in Singapore is ‘fused’ – a lawyer may act as both an Advocate (barrister) as well as a Solicitor.
Lawyers may practise as sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited partnerships (LLP) or law corporations (LLC). There can also be Joint Law Ventures and Formal Law Alliances between foreign and local practices. Foreign practices may be registered as Foreign Law Practices, Representative Offices or Qualifying Foreign Law Practices.
The Law Society of Singapore is the representative body for lawyers in Singapore. The Singapore Academy of Law is a statutory body whose membership comprises the Bench, the Bar, corporate counsel and faculty members of the local law schools.
The Singapore Institute of Legal Education was set up to co-ordinate and oversee legal training; and has oversight of the Singapore Bar Examinations and the Foreign Practitioner Examinations.
Law degrees are offered by the Faculty of Law of the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the School of Law of Singapore Management University.