1. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and Ministry of Law (MinLaw) today announced enhancements to the investigation and court processes for sexual crimes, to better protect victims of such offences. These enhancements include collaboration with various organisations such as the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) to reinforce the victim-centric approach to investigations.
2. These enhancements follow the announcement in August 2016 by the Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law, Mr K. Shanmugam, that MHA and MinLaw would be reviewing the effectiveness of investigation and court processes in dealing with sexual crimes.
Current Investigation and Court Processes
3. The measures in place today to support sexual crime victims during investigation and court processes are:
(i) Availability of multiple channels for victims to report sexual crimes, including hospitals, schools and social service organisations such as the Sexual Assault Care Centre (SACC) run by AWARE;
(ii) Police officers trained to handle sexual crime victims with sensitivity;
(iii) Trained volunteers from the Victim Care Cadre (VCC) Programme are available to provide emotional support to all sexual crime victims; and
(iv) The Sexual Crime Victim Care Centre provides victims with a safe and conducive environment to facilitate investigations into serious sexual crimes.
(v) Legal safeguards are built into court proceedings, and judges have broad powers to protect victims during the court process, including through gag orders, closed door hearings and video-link testimonies; and
(vi) The law also prohibits lawyers from making statements that are intended or calculated to vilify, insult or annoy a witness.
4. While victims of sexual crimes are accorded strong protection today throughout the investigation process and court proceedings, reducing the stress and trauma for these victims continues to be a priority.
5. Following the review, MHA and MinLaw will introduce new initiatives to reinforce the existing measures and ensure that the process remains sensitive to the needs of the victims:
(i) The Police have set up the One-Stop Abuse Forensic Examination (OneSAFE) Centre in partnership with SGH. The OneSAFE Centre, which was operationalised on 15 Jan 17 allows sexual crime victims to undergo the necessary forensic and medical examinations in a private facility in the Police Cantonment Complex. In this initiative, the OneSAFE Centre will serve adult rape victims whose cases are reported within 72 hours of the assault, and who do not require other medical attention;
(ii) The Police will collaborate with AWARE to develop a training video based on the experiences of SACC clients. The training video, which will be ready by Q3 2017, will complement Police training to sensitise officers to the victims' experience during the investigation process;
(iii) The Police and MinLaw will work on an information pamphlet to educate victims on investigation and court processes, including victim care and support measures, so as to encourage victims to come forward;
(iv) MinLaw will strengthen laws and court processes to reduce the stresses of the court process for victims. This could include enhancing restrictions on cross-examination in court and introducing new ways to better protect victims' privacy and confidentiality;
(v) MHA and MSF are exploring longer-term ideas to enhance victim care. For example, MHA and MSF are studying multi-disciplinary interviewing models for intra-familial child abuse cases investigated by the Police and MSF. This will reduce the need for victims to recount their traumatic experience repeatedly to different officers;
(vi) MHA and MinLaw will review the existing punishment regime for sexual offences. This review will include a consideration of the sentences imposed in past cases.