Forum: Peg fines to offender's salary

A posed photo of molest. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

The recent news of a law firm's managing partner being fined $15,000 for molesting three women is disappointing ($15k fine for lawyer who molested 3 women, Nov 21).

Many netizens on social media said the punishment was inadequate - $15,000 was not a significant sum for a managing partner of a law firm likely to be drawing a hefty salary.

The impact of a fine depends very much on the earning capacity of the offender.

A $15,000 fine might not be very much to someone with a monthly salary of $50,000, but could completely devastate the finances of someone with a monthly salary of $800. So the same sentence for the same offence could punish different offenders differently.

One possible solution is to consider implementing fines proportionate to the offender's salary.

This approach is not novel and has, in fact, been adopted in other jurisdictions. Finland, for example, adopts a "day fine system", where the fines for more severe speeding offences are based on the offender's income.

A more moderate variation of this system has been adopted in the United Kingdom. Instead of using a mathematical formula to determine the quantum of a fine, the magistrate has to fully consider an offender's means when imposing a fine.

It would be good if the judges could consider the financial background of the offender when meting out fines.

This will hopefully go some way towards making punishments fairer for all.

Samantha Lim Li Min

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 03, 2019, with the headline Forum: Peg fines to offender's salary. Subscribe