Penal code review: Emerging crime trends

Proposed laws to tackle voyeurism, revenge porn and flashing

ILLUSTRATION: MIEL

Emerging crime trends such as voyeurism, revenge porn and flashing will be tackled under proposed new offences by a committee reviewing the Penal Code.

Key points from a report of proposed changes by the committee included new laws to target voyeurs and the process of making, distributing, possessing and accessing voyeuristic recordings.

The committee noted that there is currently no specific provision to address voyeurism - defined as the observation or recording of a person in circumstances where one could reasonably expect privacy - as well as the possession and distribution of voyeuristic images.

Where voyeuristic behaviour is concerned, one of the provisions the accused is likely to be prosecuted under currently is that of insulting the modesty of a woman.

However, this is gender-specific and creates an "anomaly" in the way offenders are prosecuted and sentenced, said the committee.

It said the existing law is "inadequate" to acknowledge or address the serious problem technology has created and the "bustling" online market for voyeuristic content.

Technology has also given rise to scenarios where sexual images can be distributed without consent, and lawyer Gloria James-Civetta has seen more of such cases, which include "revenge porn".

 
 

The committee proposed a new offence criminalising the distribution of, or threat to distribute, an intimate image.

At present, there is no specific offence criminalising the distribution of sexual images without consent.

While existing provisions used to prosecute offenders include extortion and criminal intimidation, a "stronger and consistent response" is needed, said the committee.

It said that given the ease with which images can now be created, uploaded and downloaded, and the difficulty to remove them, existing laws should be updated to account for this.

The committee also suggested a new offence to tackle sexual exposure and make it criminal for one to expose his or her genitals - in a public or private place - intending that someone will see them and knowing it would cause or likely cause fear, alarm or distress.

Mr Gregory Vijayendran, president of the Law Society of Singapore, said that given the changing times, technology has become a modus operandi and weapon in modern crime.

"Any smartphone is potentially a virtual crime scene," he said.

He added that while a "patchwork quilt of non-specific laws" has been used to tackle emerging crime trends, it would be better to lay out the elements of specific offences so as to address "core mischief" of various crimes such as flashing.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 10, 2018, with the headline 'Proposed laws to tackle voyeurism, revenge porn and flashing'. Print Edition | Subscribe