Lawyer M Ravi: Section 35 of CPC does not empower the police to seize note book

police m ravi

Human Rights Lawyer, Mr M Ravi has delivered a letter to the Singapore Police Force on the seizure of the notebook of his client, Ms Han Hui Hui who was called up for an interview on 10 October 2014.

This is in response to the police's statement reported on local newspaper, The Straits Times, saying that the police 'have the right to hold notebook' of Ms Han.

police letter
In his letter, Mr Ravi states that the Section 35(1)(c) of the Criminal Procedure Code clearly does not empower the police to seize Ms Han’s notebook during her interview.

Although section 35 does give the police, power to seize property if there is suspicion by the police that the property is suspected to constitute evidence of an offence .

However, such suspicion cannot be based only on the police officer’s subjective belief but must at least be based on objective and rational grounds.

He added that, "We are puzzled as to how a record of statements made by the police can be evidence of an offence."

22-year old Ms Han was questioned by police for seven hours on Friday, 10th Oct in its investigations over a possible offence of unlawful assembly during the CPF protest event which Ms Han had organised on 27th September 2014.

The following is an extract from Mr Ravi's letter to the police.

The Straits Times newspaper article dated 17 October 2014 reported that a police spokesman had said, ‘under Section 35(1)(c) of the Criminal Procedure Code, the police had a right to seize any item “suspected to constitute evidence of an offence”’.

Section 35(1)(c) of the Criminal Procedure Code (“the CPC”) provides:-

“A police officer may seize, or prohibit the disposal of or dealing in, any property… which is suspected to constitute evidence of an offence”

We do not see how it is possible for a record of our client’s interview with the Senior Investigation Officer to constitute evidence of the alleged offence(s) that our client is being investigated for.

It is true that Section 35(1)(c) of the CPC provides that suspicion alone is sufficient to give rise to an officer’s power to seize property. However, the general law mandates that such suspicion cannot be based only on the officer’s subjective belief but must at least be based on objective and rational grounds.

At the highest, which in any event is denied, such a written record may constitute a statement of facts by our client. In this regard, we note that it would be curious and unnecessary to seize our client’s record of what transpired during the interview.

We are puzzled as to how a record of statements made by the police can be evidence of an offence. A record of statements made to the police is or may be evidence of an offence but you do not need to retain our client’s version of that unless you are saying you did not do your own note taking.

Our client’s position therefore is that Section 35(1)(c) of the CPC clearly does not empower the Officer to seize our client’s notebook.

It is our view that the Officer’s actions in seizing the notebook is made more serious by the fact that the written record contained in the notebook is litigation privileged. It is made pursuant to, and for the express purpose of preparing for potential litigation. We reiterate therefore that the notebook and its contents are privileged.

The unauthorised seizure of our client’s property, which contents are privileged, seriously infringes what is due to her under the law.

The police have delivered and returned the seized notebook to Ms Han's home at around 8 pm, yesterday.