Parliamentary Speeches

Second Reading of the Criminal Procedure (Miscellaneous Amendments) – Opening Speech by Ms Sun Xueling, Minister of State for Home Affairs & Ministry of Social and Family Development

Published: 05 February 2024

Introduction and Broad Overview

1. Mr Speaker, may I be allowed to deliver my speech in Mandarin.

2. The Government’s overall aim for our criminal justice system is to ensure that society is safe and secure, and people can go about their lives without worrying about their safety. This has always been a priority for the Government.

3. We have achieved this through: 

(a) Tough criminal laws 
(b) Effective enforcement of our laws by the Police and other law enforcement agencies; and 

(c) Fair and effective criminal procedures. 

4. Every country should have a criminal justice system that meets its own unique needs. Ultimately, we must maintain the right balance between protecting individuals’ rights, and safeguarding society’s interests. 

5. The balance we have struck in Singapore is a good one, both in principle and practice. The proposed amendments in this Bill are consistent with our philosophy towards law and order. 

6. There are around 20 sets of amendments under this Bill. In this speech

Proposed Framework for Forensic Medical Examinations

7. First, on forensic medical examinations. 

8. Forensic evidence is valuable in the investigation of major crimes, such as serious sexual offences. For example:   

(a) In 2016, there was a case where a stranger broke into the victim’s house, assaulted and raped her, before making off with some of her belongings. The accused had denied committing the offences, but forensic evidence in this case the accused’s semen and findings of the victim’s DNA on the accused was critical in establishing that he was responsible for the offences.

9. Given the value of forensic evidence in investigations, we are proposing a legislative framework for conducting forensic medical examinations (FMEs). 

(a) First, we set out safeguards to ensure that examinations are conducted safely and sensitively. 

(i) Only qualified medical professionals will be allowed to conduct physical medical examinations and invasive medical procedures. 

(ii) For examinations involving intimate body parts, only Police officers holding the rank of Inspector and above can require the examinations to be conducted. 

(iii) and where the individual undergoing the examination is a woman, the examination may only be carried out by a woman. 

(b) Second, the requirement of consent is different for accused persons and victims. 

(i) For accused persons, Police will have powers to require them to undergo forensic medical examinations, even if they do not consent.

(ii) Refusal to undergo examination without reasonable excuse will be an offence, and the accused person may be jailed or fined, or both. 

(iii) The Court may also draw negative inferences from any refusal by the accused person to undergo examination.

(iv) On the other hand, for victims, consent is generally required. It is important to treat victims, especially those who have suffered a sexual assault, sensitively to avoid re-traumatising them. If there is no consent, Police will not proceed with the examination.

(v) However, there are some exceptions, for example, if a victim falls into a coma after a sexual assault and DNA evidence would be lost if not collected as soon as possible. 

(c) Police will exercise the exceptions judiciously.

(i) For example, if the victim is drunk and is expected to become sober within a reasonable time, the Police will generally wait for the victim to recover and then seek the victim’s consent. 


10. Sir, the next major set of amendments that I will address is the SEPP. 

Current Landscape and Reason for Introducing SEPP

11. The SEPP is a new type of sentence and represents a significant change in our sentencing landscape. 

(a) Today, offenders sentenced to imprisonment are incarcerated for a fixed term determined by the Court and must be released unconditionally after that term.  

(b) However, there is a small group of high-risk offenders who still pose a danger to the public at the point of release. Such offenders include serial sexual predators.

12. Let me give you an example.

(a) In 2022, an offender was sentenced to 45 years’ imprisonment for sexually abusing eight children with learning or physical difficulties after offering to tutor them. These offences were committed over a period of 16 years from 2002 to 2018. The victims were as young as five years old, and the offender recorded videos of the numerous attacks. He was also assessed to be at “very high risk of repeated sexual offending against young female victims”.  

(b) The law currently does not allow us to hold this group back in prison or even impose any conditions on their release, even if they are likely to re-offend.

(c) This can lead to tragic consequences. In recent years, we have seen egregious cases where offenders commit serious sexual crimes against vulnerable victims such as children soon after being released from prison. 

13. Each of these cases is sickening. Why were these offenders allowed back into the community in the first place? Were they still a danger to others? Could these crimes have been prevented?

14. The SEPP is our response. when an offender is sentenced to SEPP, the court will specify a minimum period of custody. After the offender is detained in prison for that minimum period, he will be assessed. The offender will only be released if we assess that he no longer poses a significant threat to others. Even after the offender is released, he will be placed on licence and subject to conditions. He will continue to be assessed. The sentence will be brought to an end only if the Minister assesses that the offender is ready to be released unconditionally. If not, the sentence will extend to the end of the offender’s natural life.  

Overview of the SEPP Regime and Safeguards

15. As it is a sentence, it is the Court which decides whether to impose the SEPP. There are strict requirements that must be fulfilled, before the Court can impose the SEPP.  

(a) the SEPP can only be imposed for very serious offences, including culpable homicide, attempted murder, rape and sexual penetration of a minor. The offender must be convicted of such an offence to qualify for SEPP.

16. Let me emphasize that the Court will decide whether to impose the SEPP. 

(a) This will generally be after considering an independent risk assessment report by the Institute of Mental Health. The defence caalso submit its own expert’s report. Court procedure will apply at this stage. An appeal may also be filed if either the Prosecution or the Defence is dissatisfied with the Court’s decision. 

(b) The Court will retain the discretion not to impose the SEPP, for example, if a less severe sentence would achieve the goal of public protection. 

Minister’s Powers

17. At the end of the minimum term, the offender will be reviewed and will only be released if assessed to be suitable for release by the Minister for Home Affairs, on the advice of a Detention Review Board. . The review board will comprise persons with high public standing with experience in forensic psychiatry or psychology, or experience with the criminal justice system. This may include retired judges and retired judicial commissioners, senior lawyers or senior psychiatrists and psychologists. 

(a) The offender or his representatives, including family members or legal counsel, will be allowed to make representations. 

(b) All relevant information will be provided to the review board and, subsequently, to the Minister, including on the offender’s conduct and progress, and an independent risk-assessment by a psychiatrist.

18.  The Minister’s powers under SEPP are in line with existing regimes like CT and PD, and for life imprisonment.

19. The Minister’s powers are subject to safeguards. If the Minister decides not to release an offender, the Minister must review that decision again within a year. Furthermore, the Minister’s decision can be subject to judicial review.

Evidence-Based Risk Assessments

20. A key safeguard, both at the sentencing and review stages, will be independent assessments by experts. 

21. Such assessments will be done by psychiatrists using evidence-based, scientific tools, which are internationally validated. They assess a wide range of risk factors, including: previous violence; the offender’s degree of insight into his conduct and responsivity to treatment; and the support available to the offender when released. A scientific and rigorous approach will be taken for the risk assessment.

Benefits of SEPP 

22. Sir, let me summarise the three key benefits of the SEPP. 

(a) First, it enhances the protection of the public. An offender who continues to pose a real danger to others will not be released.  

(b) Second, it promotes rehabilitation. An offender sentenced to SEPP knows that his release is not guaranteed; therefore, he has a clear and powerful incentive to take his rehabilitation seriously and participate in the many corrective programmes that are offered in Prisons. 

(c) Third, it enables more calibrated punishment. Under SEPP, there will be an updated risk assessment at the end of the minimum period, and the length of the offender’s incarceration beyond that point can be calibrated to the specific risk which he poses. He need not be detained for longer than necessary. 

23. This regime is not something we are introducing lightly. We have studied the issue and concluded that this is necessary to better protect the public. We have consulted extensively on these amendments, including a public consultation in 2021, and have taken suggestions on board.