Over 500 Singapore legal guidelines to be made simpler to learn

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SINGAPORE – Over 500 of Singapore’s legal guidelines will quickly have simplified language and be extra readable to the general public.

These revised Acts of Parliament – together with the Penal Code and the Trustees Act – will probably be included within the upcoming 2020 Revised Edition of Acts.

The 510 Acts could have modernised language and clearer expressions.

For instance, the phrase “despite” has changed “notwithstanding”, whereas the phrase “to avoid doubt” is used as an alternative of “for the avoidance of doubt”.

The phrases within the new version, which comes into power on Dec 31, are additionally extra exact – one instance is the usage of “must” as an alternative of “shall”. Additionally, gender-neutral phrases have been used, akin to “chairperson” as an alternative of “chairman”, to mirror present societal norms.

Lengthy clauses have been damaged down into a number of sub-clauses, whereas some Acts have clauses renumbered.

There are additionally stylistic modifications, akin to changing Roman numbers with Arabic numerals.

Other modifications embody having a extra complete legislative historical past on the finish of every Act, with data on its varied amendments, revised editions and predecessor Acts.

Diagrams are utilized in Acts which have complicated legislative histories.

The language revisions don’t change the which means of the Acts.

The revisions had been undertaken by the Legislative Division of the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC).

It is a part of the Plain Laws Understandable by Singaporeans (Plus) initiative, which seeks to make sure Singapore’s legal guidelines are comprehensible and accessible to the general public.

The AGC additionally aimed to make sure consistency in home kinds and expressions, in addition to accuracy in cross-references, throughout all Acts in power so far as potential.

While the revision challenge was formally began in August 2017, preparatory work started two years earlier, stated the AGC’s chief legislative counsel Jeanne Lee.

She stated it was well timed, because the final common revision of Singapore’s legal guidelines passed off in 1985. Since then, many new Acts have been enacted and current ones extensively amended.

The revision crew needed to be exact in the usage of each single phrase and punctuation, to keep away from inadvertently altering the which means of the legislation, she stated.

“This is probably the single biggest challenge in any revision, because even a comma or a different placement of a word can change the meaning of a provision.”

The crew additionally developed a deeper appreciation of Singapore’s authorized heritage, which incorporates British, Indian and Malaysian legal guidelines, and people from the Straits Settlements authorities.

“We realised that it would be a pity to lose that by modernising all the laws, so we decided to preserve the language of certain laws so that we keep the ‘voice’ of past legislation,” stated Ms Lee.

The sheer quantity of the work was formidable, she stated, because the 2020 revision had 510 Acts, in contrast with 387 in 1985.

Another problem was tracing the legislative historical past of every Act, particularly for older legal guidelines and those who had predecessors that had been repealed.

“These resources are not online, and the team needed to make multiple visits to various libraries,” stated Ms Lee, including that the crew additionally had to make sure consistency within the edits throughout the Acts.

“We had various checklists of standard and non-standard changes, but it is not as straightforward as a direct substitution and every edit needed to be considered in its context,” stated Ms Lee.

“When you have 30 drafters working on the Acts, there are bound to be differences in style and expression.”

The new revised version might be accessed at no cost on the AGC’s Singapore Statutes Online web site.

Hard copies might be bought from writer Toppan Leefung.

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