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 term he was given 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 but in its judgment, the court held that the three-category sentencing framework should be confined to Section 332 offences against police officers and "public servants performing duties akin to police duties". They would include Commercial Affairs Department officers, those serving in the Special Constabulary and auxiliary police officers who carry out police duties.
The court held that there would be an overreach if the framework was applied to all Home Team officers. "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: "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."
In welcoming the new sentencing framework, a Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) spokesman said: "Police officers and other Home Team officers face risks daily in the line of duty to keep Singaporeans safe and secure. MHA will not tolerate any physical or verbal abuse of our officers. We will work with the Attorney-General's Chambers to press for deterrent sentences for such cases."