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Stronger Criminal Laws, Better Protection for the Vulnerable
Here’s how the latest updates to our criminal laws will enhance our safety and security, and tackle emerging crime trends.

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Passed in Parliament on 6 May 2019, the Criminal Law Reform Bill provides stronger protection to vulnerable victims and addresses emerging crime trends. Amendments were made to the Penal Code as well as other legislation to ensure that our criminal laws remain relevant and effective. 

Here are five things you should know about the Bill.

1. Protection for Vulnerable Victims has been Enhanced
The Bill introduces amendments that strengthen protection for vulnerable victims. 

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This is achieved via three key changes:

(i) Penalties and punishments for offences against vulnerable victims have been increased by up to double the maximum prescribed penalty. 

(ii) New offences have been introduced to punish those who abuse persons who are in an intimate relationship or close relationship with them. An intimate relationship is determined based on several factors, such as whether the offender lived in the same household or shared tasks and duties of daily life. An offender and victim are in a close relationship if they are members of the same household and have frequent contact with each other.  

(iii) New offences have also been introduced to deal with abuse of vulnerable victims, especially where it leads to death. 

2. Laws Targeting Sexual Offences against Minors have been Strengthened
Minors are especially vulnerable to sexual exploitation and require greater protection under the law. 

While the age of consent for sexual activity is 16-years-old in Singapore, there may be situations where slightly older minors (between the age of 16 and 18) are exploited for sexual gratification by offenders who are in a relationship of trust with them. 

Under the Bill, new offences have been created to deal with sexual exploitation of minors between the ages of 16 and 18. Existing penalties have also been enhanced for those who sexually abuse minors under 16 years of age while in an exploitative relationship of trust with them. 

New offences have been created to deal with predatory conduct against minors. Existing offences have been updated to deal with technological developments that have made it easier for sexual predators to groom and exploit minors. 

Offences relating to the entire ecosystem of demand and supply of child abuse material have been introduced. The offences of using or procuring a child for the production of child abuse material and production of child abuse material will have extra-territorial application. 

3. Laws have been Introduced to Combat Voyeurism and other Technology-enabled Sexual Offences
New offences criminalising various technology-related sexual offences such as voyeurism, “cyber-flashing” and the distribution of or threat to distribute intimate images have been introduced. 

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The punishments prescribed will reflect the potential for great harm to the victim and serve to deter would-be offenders. Caning is a sentencing option for all voyeurism offences. 

Those found guilty of distributing voyeuristic recordings will be subject to harsher prescribed penalties – a maximum imprisonment of five years. This is intended to deter the proliferation of voyeuristic recordings. 

4. Updating The Penal Code 
The Penal Code has been updated to ensure that it is relevant and effective. 

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The Bill has updated the Penal Code in two other significant respects:

(i) Marital immunity for rape has been completely abolished. 
 
(ii) Attempted suicide has been decriminalised.

5. Emerging Crime Trends are Addressed 
As financial markets and products have become more complex, the Bill has introduced a new offence of Fraud to tackle novel and complex schemes that the current offence of Cheating may not cover. The law also now clearly states that dishonest offences that take place partly inside and partly outside Singapore can be dealt with by our courts.
 

The Criminal Law Reform Bill
The Criminal Law Reform Bill amends the Penal Code to ensure that it remains relevant and effective. The Bill also amends other legislation, such as the Criminal Procedure Code, the Children and Young Persons Act and the Women’s Charter to make related changes. 

Read the opening speech by Mr Amrin Amin, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Health, at the Second Reading of the Criminal Law Reform Bill in Parliament.

Read the speech by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law, at the Second Reading of the Criminal Law Reform Bill in Parliament. 

Read the wrap-up speech by Mr Amrin Amin at the Second Reading of the Criminal Law Reform Bill in Parliament.

  1. by Desmond Ang
  2. 06 May 2019
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