Strong support in S’pore, regional cities for death penalty for serious crimes: Studies

89.2 per cent of respondents were confident in Singapore’s law enforcement, and 91 per cent agreed that Singapore’s strict laws have been effective in preventing crime. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - More than seven in 10 people here support the use of the death penalty for the most serious crimes such as intentional murder, use of firearms and drug trafficking.

And more than eight in 10 regional residents outside of Singapore believe the death penalty here deters such serious crimes.

This is according to three studies conducted or commissioned by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

The studies were released on MHA’s website on Wednesday.

The three studies are:

  • A survey on Singapore residents’ attitudes towards the death penalty conducted by the MHA Research and Statistics Division (RSD) in 2021;
  • A study on attitudes towards the use of capital punishment commissioned by MHA in 2019 and conducted by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) from October 2019 to January 2020; and
  • A study on the perception of residents in regional cities on Singapore’s crime situation, law and safety commissioned by the MHA Home Team Behavioural Sciences Centre (HTBSC) that was conducted in two phases in 2018 and 2021.

The IPS and RSD studies, which focused on respondents in Singapore, found that a majority of Singaporeans and permanent residents supported the use of the death penalty for the most serious crimes, agreeing or strongly agreeing it is justified – 74 per cent in the IPS study and 73.7 per cent in the RSD one.

A majority also said it was appropriate when asked specifically about the death penalty being mandatory for the most serious crimes.

The IPS study, which had 2,000 respondents aged 18 and above, found that a majority agreed that the death penalty should be mandatory for intentional murder (71.4 per cent), the illegal use of firearms (60.1 per cent), and trafficking a substantial amount of drugs (61.5 per cent).

The corresponding figures for the RSD survey, which had 2,000 respondents aged 15 and above, were 80.5 per cent for intentional murder, 71.1 per cent for the illegal use of firearms, and 65.6 per cent for trafficking a substantial amount of drugs.

Most Singaporeans and PRs also said the death penalty is effective in deterring serious crimes, with 78.2 per cent agreeing in the IPS study, and more than 83 per cent in the RSD survey.

In the RSD survey, at least 79 per cent of respondents believed removing the death penalty would likely increase the amount of drugs trafficked into Singapore, and the number of firearm offences and murders here.

The HTBSC-commissioned study, which had 7,221 respondents from six regional cities, found that 86 per cent of those living outside of Singapore in the region felt the death penalty deters people from committing serious crimes.

It also found that 89.2 per cent of respondents were confident of Singapore’s law enforcement, and 91 per cent agreed that Singapore’s strict laws have been effective in preventing crime.

The six regional cities in the study were not identified.

MHA told The Straits Times that it will not be disclosing the specific cities surveyed.

But Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam had previously said the cities were where most of the drug traffickers arrested in Singapore had come from in recent years.

The minister had cited the studies during the debate on his ministry’s budget in March, when he responded to questions on whether Singaporeans had continued to support the use of the death penalty.

Mr Shanmugam said during his speech then that the results of the studies were still preliminary, and that the findings would be made publicly available when ready.

He also said there was strong support for the death penalty among Singaporeans and that it had a strong deterrent effect.

“It appears to us, specifically in relation to drugs, by reference to drugs, that our position on drugs, including imposing the death penalty, is well known in some of our neighbouring regions,” he said in March.

“MHA specifically commissioned a study on persons from parts of the region outside Singapore. These are places from where most of our arrested drug traffickers have come from, in recent years. We wanted to get a sense of what people in these places knew and thought.”

The ministry said on Wednesday the studies show there is consensus that the death penalty is effective.

“Overall, the studies show that there is very strong support among Singapore residents on Singapore’s use of the death penalty for the most serious crimes, such as intentional murder, use of firearms and trafficking in substantial amounts of drugs,” it said in a statement.

It added: “There is also a clear view, both domestically and within the region, that the death penalty is effective in deterring people from trafficking drugs into Singapore and is more effective than life imprisonment in doing so.

“Finally, there is a very high level of public confidence that Singapore’s criminal justice system ensures fair and rigorous investigations and trials and provides adequate safeguards in capital cases.”

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