Proposed legal changes: More offenders and offences eligible for community-based sentencing

A Reformative Training Centre in Singapore.
A Reformative Training Centre in Singapore.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Amendments to community sentencing regime, which includes mandatory treatment orders (MTOs), will provide more opportunities for those who are not habitual offenders to be rehabilitated while remaining in the community, said the Ministry of Law.

For instance, if the changes are passed, those with previous jail terms of up to three months or a previous term of reformative training would be eligible for community sentencing, which include community service orders and day reporting orders.

In addition, the changes will allow offenders previously sentenced to rehabilitation centres for drug or inhalant abuse, to be given community sentences if their present charge differs; however offenders with more than one previous admission to rehab centres will not be included.

More offences will also be eligible for MTOs, where offenders undergo treatment for mental health conditions in lieu of jail time, and the flexibility of such orders will be enhanced.

MTO eligibility will be expanded to include certain offences where sentences can carry up to seven years' imprisonment; at present the limit is three years.

The maximum duration of MTO sentences will be increased from 24 to 36 months, to make the orders more effective for those who need longer periods of treatment.

 

Amendments will also give the court powers to order the offender to receive in-patient treatment at the Institute of Mental Health as part of MTO conditions.

With the suggested revisions, the courts can also impose a suspended imprisonment sentence together with a community sentence.

Upon breach of the community sentence, the suspended sentence will automatically kick in. This will encourage compliance with the community sentence.

Under the proposed changes, victims will be able to secure compensation more easily. At present, criminal courts have the power to order compensation payments to victims during sentencing and the court is also obliged to consider the issue of compensation.

Besides requiring courts to give explanations in cases where compensation is not ordered, courts will also be granted powers to order compensation for the dependents of a victim whose death was caused by an offence. As of current laws, compensation can only be ordered for injury to the victim, and not his dependents.

The proposed amendments will allow victims to participate in the compensation process through making submissions or giving evidence to help determine if compensation should be paid, and if so, how much.