You may be familiar with movies where a character, usually a police officer or detective, goes undercover by joining a gang or a crime syndicate to gather evidence against them. One specific example of entrapment could be the officer pretending to be a gang member, requesting another member to buy drugs for him. This would lead to the gang member and dealer eventually getting charged for drug trafficking.

By definition, entrapment refers to the act of getting someone, usually a suspect, to commit an offence by concealing the facts or simply by misrepresentation. In this case, the undercover officer concealed his real identity and made the dealer commit a criminal offence. 

However, if the officer had bought the narcotics from the dealer himself without any effort at concealment, then he would have simply just provided an opportunity for the dealer to commit an offence. This won’t be considered entrapment.

The Legality of Entrapment

The example above involved someone acting for the authorities but entrapment can also refer to a private citizen or company acting on their own. Singapore’s courts will generally accept evidence that was obtained through entrapment provided they are:

  • Relevant to the case;
  • Not harmful for all parties involved

If the court finds that the method of obtaining this evidence caused more problems to the parties involved rather than being useful to the case, then the court may reject or deny it. This applies to both legally obtained evidence, as well as those illegally obtained through unlawful means such as hacking or stealing.

While an illegally obtained piece of evidence may result in punishment for that act, the evidence itself may still be used in court if it is relevant to the case. The main difference between illegally obtained evidence and entrapment is the element of instigation.

Using the same example of the undercover police officer, if he had instead convinced a person with no interest in drugs to procure some for him, then the officer may get prosecuted by the state instead as such behaviour would be considered unconstitutional. 

Private and State Entrapment

While state entrapment usually involves the authorities or the government, private entrapment involves private citizens or companies conducting the act. An example would be a media company instigating someone to commit software piracy to make a case against copyright infringement. 

Evidence gathered by private entrapment may also be accepted by Singapore’s courts, granted that they were obtained through lawful means. For evidence gathered by unlawful means, further action may be taken by the court against the party gathering the evidence to ensure fairness.

Entrapment is Not a Defence

Depending on the facts of the case, the court may decide that the entrapment could be considered a mitigating factor for the case and weigh the impact the entrapment had on the intent and guilt of the offender. Was the person planning to commit such an act in the first place?

For example, if an undercover officer convinces a person with no criminal tendencies to commit an offence that he/she would not if not for the officer’s request, then the court may view that as a mitigating factor in the case.

However, if the officer merely mentions an illegal act, to which the offender arranges for it to happen, such as illegal prostitution, then the entrapment would be viewed by the court as justified and there will be no mitigating value in this case.

If you strongly suspect that you are being entrapped to commit an offence, then it is advisable for you to consult a lawyer to better understand your situation and to provide you with the best advice for your possible next steps. 

Engaging a Lawyer

If you are currently in a situation that requires mediation or legal advice, it’s best to consult a lawyer who will be able to guide you through your options.

Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu of Amarjit Sidhu Law Corporation has represented numerous clients in a wide variety of matters over the years from traffic offences, high-profile criminal cases – to family and divorce matters. With a vast knowledge of Singapore’s laws and a wealth of experience, Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu will be able to provide valuable and timely advice for your situation. For more information, feel free to contact us for a consultation.

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