Parliament: Penalties to double for those who harass intimate partners or the mentally, physically infirm

Posed photo of a man scolding a woman. The new penalties for offences against vulnerable persons with mental or physical disabilities will match those introduced recently in the Criminal Law Reform Bill. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Penalties will double for people who harass their intimate partners or the physically or mentally infirm, under proposed changes to the Protection from Harassment Act (Poha).

The new penalties for offences against vulnerable people with mental or physical disabilities will match those introduced recently in the Criminal Law Reform Bill, said the Law Ministry in a statement on Monday (April 1) on the Poha amendments.

It added: "Victims of harassment by intimate partners are often vulnerable and require greater protection. The voluntary welfare organisations we consulted shared numerous cases of abusive behaviour by intimate partners."

The new proposals are part of the raft of changes to Poha introduced in Parliament on Monday by Senior Minister of State for Law Edwin Tong.

Harassers can be fined up to $10,000 and jailed a maximum of 12 months for intentionally causing harassment, alarm or distress to their intimate partners or vulnerable persons.

If they are found to have provoked or caused fear of violence, or have stalked such victims, they would face a maximum fine of $10,000 and 24 months' jail.

The changes also provide for swifter relief to victims of harassment, as a new court will be set up to hear all harassment-related cases and will aim to hear expedited protection order applications within three days of application.

In addition, unrepentant harassers who harass their victims in defiance of their protection orders could be arrested on the spot and will face double the penalties for subsequent breaches.

Protection orders and expedited protection orders, which is an interim order while an application for a protection order is being heard, could also be extended to protect people related to the victim.

With the changes to Poha, victims of harassment could be granted a domestic exclusion order to prevent their harassers from entering their residence or any part of it.

The amendments also clarify that entities like businesses could be liable for harassment-related behaviour.

This would mean that businesses that carry out institutionalised harassment, like debt collectors, could be found guilty of harassment.

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