SINGAPORE - Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam announced the latest proposed changes to the penalties for hurt and sexual offences in Parliament on Friday (March 5).
Here are some other significant amendments over the years to better protect victims of sexual and hurt offences:
2019 (came into effect on Jan 1, 2020)
Changes to the Penal Code and Evidence Act
- Updated offences such as the production, distribution, possession of and access to voyeuristic recordings, as well as threats to distribute, or the distribution of, intimate images or recordings.
- New offences include sexual communication with a minor below 16 years of age; engaging in sexual activity before a minor below 16; causing a minor below 16 to look at a sexual image; and exploitative sexual penetration of a minor of or above 16 but under 18 years of age.
- Enhanced penalties of up to twice the maximum punishment for some offences against vulnerable victims including those with mental or physical disabilities, children under 14 years old as well as domestic workers. Penalties were also enhanced for victims in an "intimate relationship" or "close relationship" with the offender.
- New offences to punish acts involving sustained abuse of a vulnerable victim, such as causing death to a vulnerable victim by sustained abuse; causing or allowing death of a vulnerable victim in the same household and allowing neglect, physical or sexual abuse of a domestic worker.
Amendments to the Protection from Harassment Act
- These include doubling the maximum penalties for offences against vulnerable persons and intimate partners, as well as repeated breaches of protection orders and expedited protection orders.
Amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code and Evidence Act
The changes protect victims of sexual or child abuse, and to reduce the stress they face in the criminal justice process. These include:
- Requiring the accused or his counsel to obtain the court's permission before they can adduce evidence or ask the alleged victim questions about physical appearance or sexual behaviour which do not relate to the charge.
- Allowing the use of physical screens to shield the victim from seeing the accused when testifying in court
The Protection from Harassment Act was enacted. The changes include making harassment and stalking an offence, increasing existing penalties for harassment offences, and enhancing penalties for repeat offenders.
The Evidence Act was amended to repeal a provision that allowed the credit of an alleged victim of rape or attempted rape to be impeached by showing that she is of generally immoral character. This provision had existed since 1872.
The Penal Code was amended for new offences which included having oral or anal sex, or other penetrative acts, with a minor under 16, whether consensual or not; soliciting, communicating or obtaining sexual services from a minor under 18; and sexual grooming.