Penalties for sex offenders should be tougher

The case of a 59-year-old man who preyed on his friend's two young daughters is despicable and horrendous (Man jailed 23 years for sexual abuse of friend's 2 daughters, Aug 15).

The offender was exempted from caning as he was above 50 years old, which is a grave injustice to the victims.

The Penal Code gives exemption from caning to any offender above 50, regardless of how unmeritorious the case may be.

Such "judicial mercy" for older offenders should be exercised in only exceptional circumstances, and not be granted as a default legal entitlement to a convicted offender who has committed such an act.

The law should be amended such that caning for offenders above the age of 50 years be subject to the review of a medical panel.

It should not be applied as a blanket exemption with age as the sole criterion.

It is also debatable that everyone above the age of 50 years is not suitable for caning. In the first instance, the perpetrator had no regard for the victims' age when the hurt was inflicted on them. This is a legal loophole which should be plugged to serve as a greater deterrence against sex crimes.

Instead of total exemption, it would also be appropriate to introduce a less severe form of caning for those found medically unfit for the current form of caning.

The medical review panel may recommend a reduction in the number of strokes, subject to the approval of the court.

Victims of sex crimes, especially young victims, suffer irreparable long-term emotional and psychological damage.

The law should be tightened to better protect them, especially young victims. We should not wait for statistics to show that older sex offenders are on the rise before taking action.

Soo Weng Keong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2019, with the headline 'Penalties for sex offenders should be tougher'. Print Edition | Subscribe