Subordinate courts of Singapore

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The subordinate courts of Singapore are one of the two tiers of the court system in Singapore, the other tier being the Supreme Court. The subordinate courts comprise the District and Magistrate Courts—both of which oversee civil and criminal matters—as well as specialised family, juvenile, coroner's courts and a small claims court called the Small Claims Tribunal.

The subordinate courts comprise district and magistrate courts and hear both civil and criminal cases that do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. Over 95% of all civil, criminal, family and juvenile cases in Singapore are heard in the subordinate courts.

The judges, magistrates, and registrars of the subordinate courts are all legal service officers and serve under the supervision and control of Singapore's Legal Service Commission. Judges and magistrates are appointed by the President upon the recommendation of the Chief Justice.

There are five main operational units in the subordinate courts. They are: the Strategic Planning and Training Division, the Corporate and Court Services Division, the Criminal Justice Division, the Civil Justice Division and the Family and Juvenile Justice Division.

The Chief District Judge has overall responsibility for the administration of the subordinate courts.

The Chief District Judge leads a team of judicial officers who adjudicate on cases brought before the subordinate courts. He is assisted administratively by the Deputy Chief District Judge / Registrar and the Corporate and Court Services Division.

As of 1 July 2012, the senior judicial officers of the subordinate courts are:

  • Chief District Judge Tan Siong Thye;
  • Deputy Chief District Judge Jennifer Marie, Corporate and Court Services Division, also the Registrar of the Subordinate Courts;
  • Senior District Judge Foo Tuat Yien, Family and Juvenile Justice Division;
  • Senior District Judge See Kee Oon, Criminal Justice Division; and
  • Senior District Judge Leslie Chew Kwee Hoe, Civil Justice Division.

The Subordinate Courts Complex[edit]

In 1972, the Singapore Government called for tenders for the construction of the Subordinate Courts Havelock Square Complex. Construction began in 1973 and cost about S$13 million. It was completed in 1975 and most of the courts moved into the new building. The complex was initially built for 26 courtrooms but the courts’ jurisdiction broadened over the years and the number of courtrooms increased accordingly. However, the Small Claims Tribunal at Apollo Centre did not make the move to Havelock Square Complex until year 2005.

The Family and Juvenile Court Building[edit]

In 2001, the Family Justice Division at Paterson Road relocated to the new Family and Juvenile Court Building (former Ministry of Labour Building), which sits right next to the Subordinate Courts Complex.

Child Focused Resolution Centre[edit]

In 2011, the Child Focused Resolution Centre (CFRC) is gazetted as a Court to provide dedicated mandatory counselling and mediation for divorcing parents to focus on the welfare of their children during legal proceedings. The establishment of the CFRC is an extension of the existing alternative dispute services of the Family Court, namely the Family Resolution Chambers and the Maintenance Mediation Chambers.

Divorce has a profound impact on children. They may be affected in many ways - emotionally, psychologically, physically, academically and financially. The CFRC was created to better safeguard the interests of the children by providing an early conciliatory forum for parents, to assist them in focusing on their children to resolve children related issues, and to empower them with information on co-parenting after divorce.

The CFRC is located at Central Mall (Office Tower), 1 Magazine Road, #04-10/13, Singapore 059567, within walking distance from the Subordinate Courts Complex and Family and Juvenile Court building.

The Community Justice Centre[edit]

Five organisations have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to set up a Community Justice Centre (CJC) that aims to help unrepresented litigants through its services. The MOU was signed on 20 June 2012 by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, Ministry of Law, Subordinate Courts, Tan Chin Tuan Foundation and The Law Society of Singapore.

The Patron of the CJC is Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong.

The CJC will start operations from the fourth quarter of 2012. To be located at the Subordinate Courts, the centre will provide services like a Lay Assistance Scheme, legal clinics, practical support, referral and public outreach services.

The New Subordinate Courts Complex[edit]

Panorama of the old complex before works began in 2014

The Subordinate Courts of Singapore held an open design competition for the new Subordinate Courts complex in September 2011. The project comprises a development of a new tower and retrofitting the existing Subordinate Courts building. The site area is estimated to be 23,500 sqm. The projected commencement and completion of the construction project are 2013 and 2019 respectively.

The winning design for the new Subordinate Courts Complex had been selected in June 2012.

Serie Architects and Multiply Architects & Engineers LLP has been awarded the assignment, and will work with CPG Corporation to implement the submitted design for a fee of S$3 million (including winning the first prize of S$100,000). The design links itself to the adjacent historic Chinatown by adopting the colours of the clay pitched roofs of the conserved shop houses of the Chinatown area, by cladding the exterior of the courtrooms in terracotta tiles.It also features strategies for creating an eco-friendly building such as using high-rise gardens to filter the afternoon sun, naturally-ventilated corridors and bringing daylight into the interaction areas.

The other shortlisted design for Stage 2 of the Open Design Competition came from Laud Architects, which was awarded the second prize. The two firms that made it to the final stage of the competition were shortlisted from the 19 designs received in Stage One of the competition.

2012 United Nations Public Service Award[edit]

The establishment of the Help centre - which stands for Helping to Empower Litigants- in-Person - clinched the Subordinate Courts the second prize in the category of 'Improving the Delivery of Public Services' for Asia and the Pacific region.[1]

2011 Singapore Quality Award with Special Commendation[edit]

The Subordinate Courts of Singapore won the coveted Singapore Quality Award 2011 with Special Commendation (SQA SC), an award which represents the pinnacle of business excellence in Singapore.

2011 – Attained Singapore Quality Award with Special Commendation (SQA-SC)

2006 – Attained Singapore Quality Award(SQA)

2001 – Attained Singapore Quality Class(SQC)



  1. ^ "Subordinate Courts win United Nations Public Service Award". 2012-06-05. Retrieved 2012-07-12. 

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