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The development of legal procedures in Malaya and Singapore followed different paths. Trial by jury for serious criminal cases was part of the judicial system practised in the Straits Settlements from 1900. However, in the Malay states, due to the lack of enough people proficient in the English language (the language of the courts under the British colonial rule), it was found impracticable to empanel sufficient number of peers to try a person.

A system called the assessors was introduced in the Malay States in 1900 for capital cases, i.e. where the possible maximum sentence was death. Under this, three assessors are chosen from ordinary people known to be conversant in English and from these, the presiding judge in the court would then choose two, including o­ne who spoke the same language as the accused.

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