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Enhancing Care and Protection for Victims of Sexual Crimes
To provide better protection for victims of sexual crimes, the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Law announced enhancements to the investigation and court processes on 17 February 2017.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and Ministry of Law (MinLaw) on 17 February 2017 introduced measures to enhance the care and protection of victims of sexual crime undergoing investigation or court processes.

These enhancements include collaborations with various organisations such as the Singapore General Hospital (SGH), the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) and the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).

The newly-launched initiatives follow a previous announcement by Minister for Home Affairs and Law Mr K Shanmugam in August 2016 that the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Law would be reviewing the effectiveness of investigation and court processes in dealing with sexual crimes.

Minister for Home Affairs and Law Mr K Shanmugam had asked officials to look into the current legal process in June 2016 to see if changes are necessary to the way investigations and trials are conducted around victims of sexual crime. PHOTO: Aizil Bin A.Rahim

The enhancements are aimed at reinforcing existing measures, while ensuring that the investigation process and court proceedings remain sensitive to the needs of the victims. Reducing the stress and trauma for these victims will continue to remain a priority to MHA and MinLaw.

“One of the key issues is of course to encourage victims to come forward and make the whole experience something that doesn’t add to their trauma. It makes it easy for them to report and makes it easy for them to undergo examination,” Mr Shanmugam said during a press conference at New Phoenix Park.

Through a partnership with SGH, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) launched the One-Stop Abuse Forensic Examination (OneSAFE) Centre on 15 January 2017.

“The Police adopts a victim-centric approach to encourage reporting of sexual crimes. With OneSAFE Centre, victims can now undergo forensic and medical examinations in the privacy of a facility within the Police Cantonment Complex,” said Deputy Superintendent (DSP) Cindy Neu, Deputy Head, Specialised Sexual Crimes Branch from SPF’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID).

DSP Cindy Neu is Deputy Head, Specialised Sexual Crimes Branch with SPF's Criminal Investigation Department. PHOTO: Mabel Yap

“In terms of the victims’ experiences, one obvious point is if the victim does not have to
go through multiple medical examinations. That helps tremendously. So, OneSAFE centre helps in that context,” Mr Shanmugam added.

“Previously, before OneSAFE was up, we had situations where victims of sexual crime would have to go to a hospital to lodge a report and at the same time, undergo a sexual assault medical examination. Thereafter, because it is a serious crime, the person has to go to the Serious Sexual Crime Branch at CID at the Police Cantonment Complex for interviews,” said Deputy Commissioner (Investigations & Intelligence) and concurrent Director of Criminal Investigation Tan Chye Hee.

With the OneSAFE Centre, victims of sexual crimes will undergo the necessary forensic and medical examinations within the private facility, negating the need to travel to a hospital. Victim Care Officers will also be available to render emotional support to the victim of crime.

The OneSAFE Centre at Police Cantonment Complex was set up by a partnership between SPF and SGH. It allows sexual crime victims to undergo the necessary forensic and medical examinations in a private facility. PHOTO: Mabel Yap

“This means that the medical examination, investigation, emotional support are all being brought to the victim in one place, in a setting which is somewhat soothing and conducive,” Mr Shanmugam explained.

The OneSAFE Centre will serve adult rape victims whose cases are reported within 72 hours of the assault, and do not require medical attention. Since its inception a month ago, it has been activated once.

The SPF is also working with AWARE to develop a training video to help Police officers better relate to victims’ experiences during the investigation process. The video, which will be ready by the third quarter of 2017, will provide an insight to the victims’ perspective and will complement existing Police training.

“Many developed countries have been trying to come up with a much more sensitive way. They recognise that having a victim centric approach is actually helpful to the Police investigation process. If the victim is comfortable to share the whole story then it’s easier for the Police to actually get the full story and do their investigation,” said Ms Corinna Lim, Executive Director of AWARE.

Ms Corinna Lim, Executive Director of AWARE, felt that it would be useful for the Police to understand more about the victims' perspective. PHOTO: Aizil Bin A.Rahim

An information pamphlet aimed to encourage latent victims of sexual crimes to come forward is also in the works. Produced by the SPF and MinLaw, the pamphlet will focus on investigation and court processes, including victim care and support measures.

MinLaw will also strengthen laws and court processes to reduce the stresses of the court process for victims. These can include establishing rules on cross-examination to enable a more sensitive evidence-gathering process, anonymising the victim’s identity starting from when an allegation is made, allowing the use of physical screens in court to shield the victim from the accused, mandating in-camera hearings of testimonies of victims of sexual offences and expanding protection measures to envelope all victims, regardless of gender.

MHA and MSF are also exploring longer-term ideas to enhance victim care. Among these ideas is a study on multi-disciplinary interviewing models for child abuse cases investigated by the SPF and MSF. This is expected to reduce the need for young victims to recount their experiences and accounts repeatedly to different officers.

Finally, MHA and MinLaw are in the process of reviewing the existing punishment regime for a number of sexual offences.
© 2019 Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore. All Rights Reserved.

  1. by Desmond Ang
  2. 17 February 2017
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