Better ways to treat female victims in court needed: Shanmugam

Law Minister K. Shanmugam said in a Facebook post that there must be better ways to conduct investigations and trials where women are the alleged victims.
Law Minister K. Shanmugam said in a Facebook post that there must be better ways to conduct investigations and trials where women are the alleged victims. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - There must be better ways to conduct investigations and trials where women are the alleged victims, without them being subjected to unacceptable cross-examination in court, Law Minister K. Shanmugam said in a Facebook post on Saturday (Aug 6).

Mr Shanmugam, who is also Home Affairs Minister, was responding to media reports on lawyer Edmund Wong Sin Yee, who was reprimanded by a district judge for focusing on the breast size of a molest victim in court.

Mr Shanmugam wrote that women who are victims of sexual assault are "seen as fair game in court for cross-examination".

"Their past, sexual history etc. are looked into, to make the suggestion of looseness and therefore consent," he wrote.

He also referred to the case of Brock Turner, a former student of Stanford University who was given six months' jail in June for sexually assaulting an unconscious, intoxicated victim behind a dumpster in January last year.

 
 
 

Mr Shanmugam said that the hearing "put the victim through unacceptable examination".

"This happens in many places in the world, with court processes which, in my view, are not sufficiently sensitive to what victims have gone through.

"The counter argument that there could be a frame up, and therefore the allegations should be thoroughly examined, is also true. But there must be a better way to do this," he said.

He added that he had asked officials earlier this year to consider changes to the way investigations and trials are conducted, when women are the alleged victims. "And I have asked them to also consult with NGOs (non-governmental organisations), others, including organisations seeking to protect women's interests," he said.

Mr Shanmugam said in June that an effective criminal justice system must not put women through unnecessary ordeals during investigations, and that interrogations in court have to be sensitive to the state of the victims.