Molestation cases in Singapore on the rise, average of 1,190 a year between 2016 and 2020

Those convicted of outrage of modesty could, in future, face a jail term of up to three years, compared with two years now.
Those convicted of outrage of modesty could, in future, face a jail term of up to three years, compared with two years now. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Cases of molestation have been on the rise in recent years, and penalties for these offences are set to be raised to allow the authorities to better deal with such crimes, said Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam in Parliament on Friday (March 5).

Between 2016 and 2020, an average of 1,190 outrage of modesty cases were reported each year; about 24 per cent higher than between 2011 and 2015, he said.

"We want egregious cases to be dealt with more severely," added Mr Shanmugam.

Following a review of the sentencing framework for hurt and sexual offences, the maximum penalties for molestation and two other sexual offences involving minors are set to be raised, he announced.

Those convicted of outrage of modesty could, in future, face a jail term of up to three years, compared with two years now. They could also be fined and/or caned.

This will send a stronger signal of deterrence, given the rise in molestation cases in the past four years compared with the preceding four years, Mr Shanmugam told Parliament in a ministerial statement on the recent review of the sentencing framework.

The proposal is also to raise the jail terms for those who perform sexual activities in the presence of minors, or who show sexual images to minors. These are victims between the ages of 14 and 18.

Offenders could face jail of up to two years on top of a fine, up from a maximum of one year now.

The review of the sentencing framework for hurt and sexual offences, announced last July, came after public disquiet over sentences meted out to those convicted of such offences in recent years.

This included a case of a dentistry student who tried to strangle his former girlfriend and put his thumb into her eye after she rejected him.

He will not have a criminal record after completing his sentence, which included a short detention order of 12 days and 80 hours of community service.

Mr Shanmugam said that the authorities have been constantly reviewing laws on sexual and hurt offences.

The latest review of the penalties, undertaken by the ministries of Home Affairs and Law, was conducted even after amendments to the Penal Code were made recently to strengthen protection for victims of sexual and hurt offences.

In the most recent review, penalties for other sexual and hurt offences under the Penal Code were also reviewed, including those for voyeurism, the distribution of intimate images and voluntarily causing hurt.

"In our view, the maximum penalties are properly calibrated for most of these offences," said Mr Shanmugam, though some areas have been identified so that they can be further fine-tuned.