Our History

Our Milestones

11 April 1867The Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) was established with the transfer of the Straits Settlements to the British. Sir Thomas Braddell was appointed as the first Attorney-General of the Straits Settlements.
21880s-1930sAGD puts in place the necessary legislation to improve criminal procedure and facilitate trade in the colonies.
3February 1942Following the fall of Singapore to the Japanese, AGD officers worked under the Japanese Military Administration Department (MAD).
4September 1945-1950Upon the surrender of the Japanese, AGD worked to restore law and order in Singapore, from combating the threat of communism to the convening of one of Singapore’s earliest Commissions of Inquiry after the Maria Hertogh riots (with the Solicitor-General of the day leading evidence for the colonial government). 
51950s-1960sAs Singapore marched towards self-government and independence, the AG and his officers strove to maintain law and order in the face of emergencies such as the communist threats, Confrontation, Pulau Senang riots and the racial riots. AGC prosecutors demonstrated their mettle after the Pulau Senang riots, by securing the convictions of 47 prisoners for murder and rioting in the largest criminal trial in Singapore’s history.
6August 1965Singapore split from Malaysia and become an independent nation. Led by the first local AG of Singapore, Mr Ahmad Ibrahim, AGC advised on and drew up the necessary legal framework to keep the newly independent Singapore running, including the drafting of foundational Constitutional documents.
71965-1972

Under AG Tan Boon Teik’s leadership, AGC officers drafted major pieces of legislation to implement the founding government’s top priorities from improving public housing to attracting foreign investments and strengthening Singapore’s infrastructure and defence capabilities. 
Two key criminal cases in the early years were the Sunny Ang case, which resulted in the first murder conviction based purely on circumstantial evidence, and the prosecution of the Gemini Chit Fund Corporation, which ran a tontine scheme that lost $50 million of its subscribers’ life savings. AGC supported the Government’s national-building work by advising on important land acquisitions to facilitate national development. 
In relation to this, two major pieces of legislation were drafted and enacted:

  • Land Acquisition Act in 1966
  • Economic Expansion Incentives Act in 1967
81970s-1980s Major pieces of legislation that contributed to national development were drafted and enacted:
  • Enlistment Act  in 1970
  • Mass Rapid Transit Corporation Bill in 1983 (the predecessor of the current Rapid Transit Systems Act)
91970s-1980s

AGC led evidence in Committees of Inquiry (COIs) into major national tragedies:
1972: Robinsons Fire
1978: Explosion of the Greek tanker Spyros claimed 48 lives and injured nearly 100 people.
1983: Collapse of the Hotel New World

1988: Collision of oil drilling vessel Eniwetok into the Sentosa cableway. 
101973-1980s On the international front, AGC safeguarded and advanced Singapore’s interests. AGC was a key player in the negotiation of major treaties such as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
111980s AGC helped to put in place key legislation that shaped the unique political landscape in Singapore: Nominated Members of Parliament (NMPs), Non-constituency Members of Parliament (NCMPs), Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) and Town Councils were introduced.
121990LawNet, a brainchild of AGC officers, was launched. LawNet is a subscription-based service that provides access to an electronic database that caters to the research and legal information needs of the legal community.
131990AGC drew up the legislative framework for the elected presidency and the protection of past reserves. AG Chan Sek Keong successfully argued the first-ever Constitutional Reference before the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore Tribunal, clarifying the scope of the elected President’s powers.
141993The Application of English Law Act was passed by the Singapore Parliament in 1993 and is described as ‘one of the most significant law reform measures since Singapore’s independence’. Together with the abolishment of appeals to the Privy Council in 1994, this heralded the birth of a truly autochthonous legal system for Singapore. 
151993-1996

AGC was involved in three high-profile criminal cases involving foreign accused persons:

  • Flor Contemplacion
  • Michael Fay
  • Nick Leeson
162001

In the wake of 9/11 attacks in the United States, AGC moved quickly to draft laws to strengthen Singapore’s laws against terrorism.

AGC also advised on air disaster indemnity issues to keep Singapore’s national carrier’s planes in the air.
172003When SARS struck Singapore, AGC worked with the Government on its response, providing urgent legal advice and legislation drafting support to help contain the spread of the virus.
182005When the Government, in a major policy shift, decided to allow casinos in Singapore, AGC provided Government with important advice and legislation drafting support.
192008-2010AGC played a role in two key bilateral/ international milestones for Singapore – first, when the International Court of Justice awarded sovereignty over Pedra Branca to Singapore and later when Singapore and Malaysia broke a 20-year deadlock over the Points of Agreement, ushering a new era in bilateral ties.
202009When the global financial crisis hit, AGC advised the Government on the drawing on past reserves to finance a $20.5 billion stimulus package for Singapore to ride out the crisis. 
21

2013

On 8 Dec 2013, when Singapore’s first riot in more than 40 years occurred in Little India, AGC provided legal support to ensure that law and order would be maintained.
Last updated / reviewed on 30 Oct 2018