Stiffer penalties for hurting police officers follow similar move to protect public transport workers

Police officers from the Central Police Division patrolling the Golden Mile Complex on Dec 15, 2013.
Police officers from the Central Police Division patrolling the Golden Mile Complex on Dec 15, 2013.PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

SINGAPORE - While the penalties for hurting public servants are already spelt out under Section 332 of the Penal Code, the state wanted a separate sentencing framework under the same law to deal with offences committed against the police and law enforcement officers.

The prosecution had made this argument in its appeal for a stiffer jail term for Jeffrey Yeo, calling the one week jail term for slapping a cop "nominal".

It cited a 2009 case and how a similar approach was used to deal with offences against public transport workers, under Section 323 of the Penal Code.

The three-judge court agreed, and also appointed lawyer Ms Melissa Mak to assist the court and to provide submissions on the relevant sentencing issues. Ms Mak is otherwise not connected with the case.

In its judgment, the court held the three-category sentencing framework should be confined to Section 332 offences against police officers and "public servants performing duties akin to police duties."

This would include Commercial Affairs Department officers, those serving in the Special Constabulary as well as auxiliary police officers who carry out police duties.

The court held that there would be an overreach if the framework is applied to all Home Team officers, noting there are nine broad categories of "public servants" who could be victims under Section 332.

"The impetus of the framework in the first place was to address the unique position of police officers," said Judge of Appeal Tay Yong Kwang.

"Police officers and public servants performing duties akin to police duties form the most visible category of law enforcement officers in daily life, are easy for the public to identify and are the most likely group to be involved in Section 332 offences because of the nature of their work," he added.

 

Lawyers contacted said the framework would provide uniformity in sentencing but said a broader approach had to be considered as well.

Association of Criminal Lawyers of Singapore president Sunil Sudheesan said: "Such benchmarks will ensure consistency, but such stiffer penalties is one step of the solution.

"What is also needed is an in-depth study of the numbers, involving sociologists, psychologists and others to see what deters such conduct. There needs to be better public education to curb such behaviour and to underline public outrage at such conduct.

"Deterrent sentences may eventually not be the solution to the increase in such offences."