SINGAPORE - About four in 10 applications for protection orders under the Protection from Harassment Act (Poha) were granted by the courts in the past four years since the Act was enacted.
As of 2018, there were 535 applications for protection orders filed, with 213 granted by the courts. Also, 193 were given expedited protection orders - an interim order given while a protection order application is pending.
Senior Minister of State for Law and Health Edwin Tong revealed the latest numbers on Poha applications during the debate on the Law Ministry's budget plans in Parliament on Monday (March 4).
The Act, which came into force in November 2014, is meant to protect victims of harassment and covers a wide range of scenarios from online stalking to cyber bullying and sexual harassment.
It is set to be amended in the coming months to offer protection faster to such victims, with swifter and stiffer penalties for those who breach protection orders granted under the Act.
Harassment victims can seek both criminal and civil remedies under the Act, as they can also lodge a police report or a magistrate's complaint - both criminal remedies - on top of seeking protection orders, which are civil remedies.
Giving the numbers in response to a request from Mr Patrick Tay (West Coast GRC) for more clarity on the cases filed under Poha, Mr Tong said the orders granted included victims of workplace harassment.
He added that 99 of the applications for protection orders were referred to the State Courts Centre for Dispute Resolution.
Of the 96 cases that completed mediation, 59 reached a settlement leading to a withdrawal of the application or the grant of a Consent Protection Order.
Mr Tong also said 3,089 magistrate's complaints have been filed for alleged offences under the Act thus far.
Another 51 magistrate's complaints were filed for alleged breaches of the protection orders, while 1,714 criminal cases involving Poha charges were commenced by the Attorney-General's Chambers, said Mr Tong.
Mr Tay had also suggested keeping track of the different types of harassment cases, such as those involving workplace harassment, online harassment or sexual harassment, during the debate.
This would give a better idea of the different types of harassment happening on the ground, said Mr Tay, adding that the courts could also publish the decision and judgment of selected cases so that complainants and perpetrators know the boundaries of the law.
In response, Mr Tong said the ministry will work with the State Courts to explore this suggestion and noted that any person can request for a copy of the court's decision.
"The court may consider factors such as whether the applicant has a sufficient interest in the action or any other legitimate reason for making the request, in assessing whether to grant it," he said.