Published: 05 April 2022
Ms Joan Pereira: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) what safeguards are in place to protect members of the public, particularly children and women, from recalcitrant sex offenders; and (b) whether the Ministry will consider lifelong counselling and monitoring of these offenders.
Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Ministry for Law:
1. Mr Speaker, I thank the Member for the question. Members know that the law provides for stiff action to be taken and stiff action is taken against sex offenders, and recalcitrant sex offenders receive even heavier sentences. These include longer imprisonment terms, sentences under the Corrective Training (CT) and Preventive Detention (PD) regimes. Under both CT and PD regimes, repeat offenders can be sentenced to imprisonment terms which are longer than the maximum term prescribed for the offence. CT sentences can range from 5 to 14 years; and PD sentences can range from 7 to 20 years. Such offenders also undergo longer rehabilitation programmes and supervision. Members know that we have been extremely focused on this – proactive, and always looking to see what else we can do to try and protect members of the public, particularly vulnerable members of the public.
2. I had asked the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Ministry of Law to study a new sentencing option – quite a novel approach to give more protection to the public from dangerous first-time offenders as well repeat offenders, who commit very serious hurt, and sexual offenders. The proposal is not quite fleshed out yet, but the framework or the outline is that offenders will have to serve the minimum jail sentence which could be anywhere between 5 to 20 years. But when the jail sentences end, when they have completed it, there will be no automatic release. At the point of release, they have to be assessed as to whether they pose a threat to the public. If they are assessed to continue to pose a threat, they will continue to be detained.
3. This, as members can see, would represent a major change in the way our sentencing regime works. Because today, the court imposes a sentence and when it ends, the person is released. The United Kingdom tried this approach, I have to say, with very mixed results, but I think we can make it work. And the rationale is very simple: person commits an offence, it is a serious, heinous offence – say, raping a young child, or rape followed by murder. The judge can express outrage, she can impose a very stiff sentence, assuming it is not capital punishment. But the judge will not know whether in X number of years, the person will no longer remain a danger to society. And there have been enough cases around the world, where the day after the person is released, literally, he goes out and commits another serious offence. We have had not many, but we have had one or two cases in Singapore too. So really, you can only assess this, or some of these cases, at the point of release.
4. We sought public feedback on these proposals in July of last year. We are considering our approach. Obviously, we will come back to the House, because any such approach is going to require changes to the law.
5. In addition to the above, agencies like the Ministry of Education (MOE) and Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) work closely with the Police to screen those who apply for jobs when they have to work with children, in licensed preschools and schools.
6. The Member suggested that MHA consider lifelong counselling and monitoring of recalcitrant sex offenders.
7. Today, a sex offender is given psychological assistance by the Singapore Prison Service (SPS)’s psychologists. Those who have committed serious sexual offences can also be put on the Mandatory Aftercare Scheme (MAS). The MAS provides community support, counselling, case management, with supervision for up to two years, for released inmates who are at a higher risk of re-offending, or who are in need of more reintegration and support.
8. SPS also works closely with the families of ex-offenders and community partners to support them after their release. We will refer the Member’s suggestion, to consider lifelong counselling and monitoring for recalcitrant sex offenders, to the relevant agencies, for them to consider. Thank you, Sir.