Penalties for sex crimes against minors being reviewed

Mixed martial arts instructor Joshua Robinson was sentenced to four years' jail for consensual sex with two underage girls and showing an obscene clip to a six-year-old girl, among other offences.
Mixed martial arts instructor Joshua Robinson was sentenced to four years' jail for consensual sex with two underage girls and showing an obscene clip to a six-year-old girl, among other offences. ST PHOTOS: WONG KWAI CHOW

Those who commit sexual crimes against minors could face harsher penalties in future, as the Government reviews if the relevant laws should be revised.

Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam told Parliament yesterday: "My own personal view is that there is certainly reasonable basis for taking the view that the punishments have to be stiffer. How that is to be arrived at, whether you necessarily have to legislate or you have to relook some of the processes, policies, that is something which is part of the review."

He was responding Ms Tin Pei Ling (MacPherson), who asked if the Government would review laws to raise punishments for such crimes against minors.

Mr Shanmugam said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is working with other ministries to study if punishments for sexual crimes against minors and for offences related to child pornography should be raised, and if new laws need to be enacted.

The review is likely to be completed by the end of the year.

His comments come after mixed martial arts instructor Joshua Robinson was last month sentenced to four years' jail for consensual sex with two underage girls and showing an obscene clip to a six-year-old girl, among other offences. Robinson's sentence was seen by many to be lenient, and an online petition against the sentence has attracted almost 30,000 signatures.

The Attorney-General's Chambers decided not to appeal against the decision, citing the fact that Robinson had pleaded guilty, which meant his three victims did not have to testify and be cross-examined in court.

The MHA's review will also study laws covering crimes against vulnerable victims such as young children and domestic workers, Mr Shanmugam said.

Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) wanted to know if the ministry was also looking at other vulnerable victims such as the mentally disabled, while Mr Alex Yam (Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC) asked if the Government would seek public feedback on the changes to these laws.

Mr Shanmugam replied that the Government is conducting a "comprehensive review" of the Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code which will cover many of these issues.

While the review on laws surrounding minors and vulnerable victims is internal, the minister said he intends to consult the public on changes to the Penal Code.

"Public consultation is something that we do quite frequently when it comes to these sorts of laws. If we don't do it, we will explain in Parliament why," he said.

Danson Cheong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 04, 2017, with the headline 'Penalties for sex crimes against minors being reviewed'. Print Edition | Subscribe