Forum: Have safeguards to ensure personal protection orders are not abused

A posed picture of an individual suffering from family violence. PHOTO: ST FILE

The Government's move to address the issue of family violence and to support families in distress is positive (Tackling increasingly violent family abuse, Feb 18).

Family violence can have inter-generational effects and no one should have to live in fear of violence in Singapore.

But as important, no one in Singapore should have to live in fear of false and spurious allegations of family violence.

From 2012 to 2018, more than 2,000 personal protection order (PPO) applications were filed in the Family Justice Courts each year, over 75 per cent of which were filed by women.

I further understand that a significant number are filed in the context of a divorce or by warring spouses.

While the nuanced intent of PPOs seeks to offer added protection to potential victims of violence, it has also led to abuse of the system where all sorts of false allegations are made by one party against the other in what are essentially family disputes.

I highlighted this abuse of process in a letter last year (False claims in divorce cases an abuse of court processes, March 30, 2019). Members of the Bar have raised similar concerns.

Over the past year, we have seen increasing instances of false reports and baseless allegations being made to the police and in court filings in Singapore. This must be firmly nipped in the bud.

Protection or restraining orders, in many jurisdictions, have become weaponised and abused by lawyers and interest groups as a tool for one party to make false accusations, provoke conflict and restrict the other parent's access to their children.

To ensure Singapore's family law system does not go down this path, we must put in place safeguards to curb the abuse of the PPO regime.

This can help ensure that it is reserved for those who genuinely need it. With wise and sound implementation and the support of stakeholders, we can not only keep individuals in Singapore safe, but also keep families intact and functional.

Oh Ee Hoe

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 03, 2020, with the headline Forum: Have safeguards to ensure personal protection orders are not abused. Subscribe