Parliament: Penal Code review to be completed this year, public to be asked for feedback: Shanmugam

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam told Parliament that a committee had been set up in July 2016 to carry out the review of the Penal Code.
Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam told Parliament that a committee had been set up in July 2016 to carry out the review of the Penal Code.PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM PARLIAMENT.GOV.SG

SINGAPORE - Members of the public will soon be able to give their recommendations on a review of the Penal Code that is expected to be completed this year (2018).

The review is covering areas such as laws that criminalise attempted suicide, marital immunity for rape, punishment for sexual offenders and the need for new criminal offences, said Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam on Tuesday (Jan 9).

He told Parliament that a committee had been set up in July 2016 to carry out the review.

Mr Shanmugam was responding to questions from Nominated MP Kok Heng Leun about the review outcome, in particular on the issues of suicide and marital rape.

"In addition to these, the committee is also undertaking a fairly fundamental review on the principles which underlie our Penal laws," Mr Shanmugam added.

These include the elements of criminal liability, the required mental element, intention and knowledge of an offender, as well as the scope of mental health defences.

"The committee aims to complete its work later this year," he said. "We will then invite feedback from the public, on the recommendations."

Mr Shanmugam said enough time will be given for public consultation, adding: "We work fairly quickly, and stakeholders must also (respond) to us quickly."

Co-chaired by Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah and Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Amrin Amin, the review committee has 14 other members including lawyers, representatives from the Attorney-General's Chambers and police force, as well as academics from the National University of Singapore.

The committee has been tasked to update or remove outdated offences and respond to the changing crime environment, among other matters.

However, it will not review section 377A - which criminalises sex between men - or the use of the death penalty.

This is not the first time that questions have been asked about laws criminalising suicide, or on the issue of marital rape.

In 2016, Mr Desmond Lee, who was Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs at the time, said the Government was prepared to review laws that criminalise suicide following several high-profile cases that had made headlines.

People who attempt suicide can be jailed for up to a year and fined, although prosecution and incarceration are rare.

Only two people were prosecuted for attempting suicide in 2015 out of 1,096 reported cases. From 2011 to 2015, only five people charged with attempted suicide were jailed.

Last April, then Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin noted that a review of the law on marital rape was under way to ensure that married women have the same protection against violence as unmarried women.

The laws were last changed a decade ago to recognise marital rape under some circumstances, such as if divorce proceedings have begun.

Until 2007, the concept of marital rape was not recognised here.