Errant entertainment spots to face stiffer penalties

Nightclub hostesses waiting for their particulars to be checked during a police raid. Soon, public entertainment outlets will be more tightly regulated, following proposed changes to the law tabled yesterday.
Nightclub hostesses waiting for their particulars to be checked during a police raid. Soon, public entertainment outlets will be more tightly regulated, following proposed changes to the law tabled yesterday. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Changes to law to punish outlets involved in serious crimes like human trafficking, drugs

Public entertainment outlets will soon be more tightly regulated, following proposed changes to the law tabled yesterday.

The authorities will take a lighter-touch approach for the vast majority of licensees who are law- abiding, and grant them licences for longer periods of time, the Home Affairs and Communications and Information ministries said in a joint statement.

But errant entertainment venues will be more harshly dealt with under the Public Entertainments and Meetings (Amendment) Bill.

The Bill will double the maximum penalty for providing public entertainment without a valid licence, or while the licence is suspended, from $10,000 to $20,000.

This is to deter errant operators from circumventing regulations.

When assessing applications for a licence, the authorities will also look at other relevant people in the business, including company directors and business partners.

The police can immediately suspend a public entertainment licence if the licensee, or any person relevant to the business, is charged in court with committing serious crimes connected to the public entertainment establishment.

These serious crimes include trafficking in persons and offences related to drugs and organised crime.

The stricter penalties seek to deter public entertainment operators from using their premises for illegal activities.

Demerit points can be given to licensees charged in court for multiple licence breaches.

These points can be taken into consideration during sentencing.

Officers will also be able to enter an establishment if there is reasonable suspicion that offences are being or have been committed there.

An appeal board will be created to allow independent review of police licensing decisions on public entertainment establishments.

This regulatory regime is more calibrated and risk-based, the ministries said. "This will support the continued vibrancy of the industry, while ensuring that public entertainment is carried out in a lawful and orderly manner, in line with standards of public decency."

Police will also work closely with industry partners to promote higher standards. The Singapore Nightlife Business Association said it "has been working closely with the Ministry of Home Affairs to promote higher standards in the nightlife industry".

The Bill also clarifies arts entertainment classification, and states that the arts licensing officer has the powers to issue classification ratings with conditions.

He can also refuse classification for arts entertainment that contains content exceeding the R18 rating under the Arts Entertainment Classification Code. This amendment will not have any impact on current content standards for arts entertainment, the ministries said.

Five other Bills were introduced yesterday and will be debated at a later sitting. They are: the Merchant Shipping (Wreck Removal) Bill, the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea (Amendment) Bill, the Terrorism (Suppression of Misuse of Radioactive Material) Bill, the Registered Designs (Amendment) Bill, and the Singapore University of Social Sciences Bill.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 04, 2017, with the headline 'Errant entertainment spots to face stiffer penalties'. Print Edition | Subscribe