Watch that cigarette butt and BBQ embers - firestarters to feel more heat from the law from Jan 1

The law will apply if the fire occurs within 60 minutes at or in the vicinity of the place where the person threw, placed, dropped or deposited any thing likely to cause fire, unless the contrary is proven. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - Anyone who does not properly dispose of lighted materials such as cigarette butts, incense and embers, and causes a fire will be taken to task from Jan 1 next year, under a new law.

This will apply if the fire occurs within 60 minutes at or in the vicinity of the place where the person threw, placed, dropped or deposited any thing likely to cause fire, unless the contrary is proven.

This is because lighted materials tend to smoulder and may not cause a fire immediately, said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in a statement on Friday (Dec 27).

Under the Criminal Law Reform Act, which was passed by Parliament on May 6, such a person will be presumed to have caused or substantially contributed to the risk of a dangerous fire.

The provision will enable Singapore Police Force and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) to take firmer action against such individuals, said MHA.

Those found liable under this new offence can be punished with up to seven years' jail, and/or fined.

Previously, anyone who rashly or negligently endangers human life, or is likely to cause hurt or injury to another person with fire or any combustible matter can be jailed up to a year or fined up to $5,000.

MHA added that the SCDF routinely handles fires caused by lighted materials.

"Between 2014 and 2018, SCDF attended to about 550 vegetation fires on average annually, many of which were caused by cigarette butts.

"As seen in other countries, these vegetation fires, if not prevented or controlled, can cause serious damage to life and property," it said.

Also taking effect on Jan 1 are new laws under the Criminal Law Reform Act and Protection From Harassment (Amendment) Act to tackle emerging crime trends, such as voyeurism and cyber-flashing.

The making, distribution, possession of, and access to voyeuristic recordings or intimate images is now a crime, as is the distribution of or threat to distribute intimate images or recordings.

Individuals who send unsolicited images of genitals over an electronic medium to another person - called cyber-flashing - can also be charged under a new offence of sexual exposure.

There are also harsher penalties for crimes against vulnerable victims such as youth below the age of 14, persons with mental or physical disabilities who are unable to protect themselves from abuse or neglect, and domestic workers.

The maximum punishment for certain offences against these individuals, such as causing grievous hurt, will be doubled with effect from next year.

Doxxing will also be criminalised from Jan 1. This offence covers the publication of personally identifiable information such as photographs, contact numbers, addresses or employment details with the intention of harassing, threatening or facilitating violence against the person.

Penal Code updates including the decriminalisation of attempted suicide will also take effect from next year, but the abetment of suicide and attempted suicide will continue to be a crime.

Police officers will also be empowered to intervene in cases of attempted suicide to prevent injury or the loss of life.

Marital immunity for rape has also been fully repealed.

MHA said that three other amendments will take effect "at a later date".

These include the raising of the minimum age of criminal responsibility from seven to 10 years old and introducing new variants of fraud.

Other harassment-related amendments will also take effect at a later date.

"We are working with relevant agencies to operationalise these amendments and to establish the Protection from Harassment Court," the ministry added.

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