Forum: Community-based sentencing may make society safer for all

The decision not to jail National University of Singapore student Yin Zi Qin for attacking his former girlfriend has sparked public anger.

I am sure many will welcome the announcement that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) will review the penalty framework in similar cases (MHA to review penalty framework in cases similar to that of NUS student, July 22).

I suggest MHA amend the scope of this review to explicitly cover intimate partner violence and crimes related to sex and relationships, to better protect women and the vulnerable. Whether prosecutors decide to press charges or let suspects off with a warning based on the suspect's academic standing should also be clarified and reviewed.

I hope the public will resolve its anger and take a sober view of the issues. While I support harsher punishments for sex-related offences, we must all acknowledge that justice requires proportionality, which involves consideration for both victim and offender.

Community-based sentences as supported by Parliament and dispensed by courts may be a smarter way to make society safer for everyone.

The families of offenders will be involved in supporting them while the offenders undergo community service, counselling, employment and other programmes.

This is not meant to trivialise their offences or insult victims, but to make sure offenders are led back to the straight and narrow path.

A jail term, on the other hand, may set offenders on the path of no return, while also depriving them of family and community support.

Heavier punishments will also not undo victims' suffering or eliminate future crime.

Soon Hao Jing

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