Debate on ministries’ budgets: Communications and Information

Parliament: Protection orders granted for 4 in 10 applications since 2014

About four in 10 applications for protection orders under the Protection from Harassment Act (Poha) have been granted in the past four years since the Act was enacted.

As of last year, 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 Edwin Tong revealed the latest numbers on Poha applications during the debate on the Law Ministry's budget in Parliament yesterday.

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 to sexual harassment.

It is set to be amended in the coming months to offer faster protection 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 lodge a police report or a magistrate's complaint, both criminal remedies, on top of seeking a protection order, which is a civil remedy.

Giving the numbers in response to a question from Mr Patrick Tay (West Coast GRC), Mr Tong said the orders were granted to applicants who included victims of workplace harassment.

He said 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 granting of a Consent Protection Order.

 
 
 

He 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, who is also Senior Minister of State for Health.

Mr Tay also suggested keeping track of the different types of harassment cases, such as those involving workplace harassment, online harassment or sexual harassment.

This would give a better idea of the different types of harassment happening on the ground, he said, 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.

Mr Tong said: "We note Mr Tay's suggestion... and will work with the State Courts to explore this."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 05, 2019, with the headline 'Protection orders granted for 4 in 10 applications since 2014'. Print Edition | Subscribe