Parliamentary Speeches

Second Reading of the Criminal Procedure (Miscellaneous Amendments) – Opening Speech by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law

Published: 05 February 2024


1. Mr Speaker, Sir, I beg to move, “That the Bill be now read a Second time”.

2. This is a joint Bill by MinLaw and MHA. 

3. The Bill proposes amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code. 

4. Over the years, we have been making changes to the criminal justice system, and I have set out some of these changes in a handout. Mr Speaker, with your permission, may I ask the Clerks to distribute Annex 1? Members can access this, and other handouts I will be distributing later, through the MP@SGPARL App as well.  

5. Members can see that since 2010, we have made several changes, to improve the Criminal Justice System.

6. This Bill today is a significant Bill. There are around 20 sets of proposed amendments. They cover law enforcement, criminal investigations, court processes, and sentencing. 

7. In my speech, I will cover 2 major aspects of the Bill:

(a) First, the new Sentence for Enhanced Public Protection (SEPP).

(b) Second, the new framework for conducting Forensic Medical Examinations (FMEs). 

8. After my speech, 2 of my colleagues will be speaking. SPS Rahayu will deal with the rest of the Bill, including changes related to Police powers to conduct searches, and the criminal disclosure regime. MOS Sun Xueling will also deal with some of the main changes. 

9. Before going into the Bill, let me take a step back and reiterate our approach relating to Criminal Justice.

Our Criminal Justice Approach 

10. Essentially, if you are guilty, you should face the penalty for the offence. If you are innocent, you should go free. 

11. The system should be robust and fair. And there are 2 parts to it.

(a) The first part: There has to be an effective framework of laws that deal with crimes committed. And that means there must be a strong and effective Law Enforcement System; and there must be a Judiciary that can apply the laws.
(b) The second part: The Criminal Justice process must be fair and civilised. 

12. That is the approach that has been taken by my predecessors, and I have continued along the same path.

13. The results are the safe and secure Singapore we have today.  

14. Whenever we talk about criminal law, every country will say they are trying to find the right balance between the interests of society, on the one hand, and the individual’s rights, on the other. But I think as we look around the world, there are serious questions as to whether the balance is being struck right. 

15. In Singapore, we also try and strike that balance. There can be differences on whether we are getting the balance right. And we do need to be continuously mindful about that. 

16. But that is our approach. And that gives context to the changes we are making. 


17. Let me now turn to deal with the first major aspect of the Bill that I will be touching on: the SEPP – 

(a) What is it?

(b) Why are we having it?

(c) How will it work?

(d) What do we hope to achieve? 

18. I will also speak briefly about a related part of the Bill, on the new Sentence for Public Protection (SPP).

(i) What is the SEPP? 

19. First, what is the SEPP?

20. In essence, it is a new type of sentence, which the Courts can impose. 
21. It will apply to offenders if they are 21 and above, at the time of the commission of the offence. 

22. It will cover dangerous offenders who commit serious violent or sexual offences, and, provided that there is an assessed risk of them committing similar offences after they are released.  

23. The relevant offences will be set out in a new Schedule to the CPC. They include culpable homicide, attempted murder, rape, and sexual penetration of minors. 

24. The SEPP is different from normal prison sentences under the existing law.

25. With normal prison sentences:

- Offenders serve a fixed term of imprisonment.

- The Court imposes a sentence.

- The usual process is that the offenders are released earlier, after serving two-thirds of their sentence. That is called Remission. Most prisoners get Remission.

26. When released, they are released unconditionally. 
27. The SEPP changes that.

- The Court will specify a term of imprisonment for the offender, based on the facts of the case.

- But the difference is that this is a minimum term. 

- There will be no early release or Remission. 

- The Court will also say, whether the offender is released at the end of the minimum term – will be subject to a review

- If he is assessed to pose a risk to others, when his term ends, he can be kept in custody beyond the minimum period.

- And if he is released, conditions can be imposed, until it is assessed that he is safe to be released. 

28. I will say a little bit more about how the SEPP works later on. 

29. But first let me explain why we are introducing it.  

(ii) Why introduce the SEPP? 

30. Some have asked: Is it because there has been an increase in serious violent and sexual crimes in Singapore? 

31. The answer is: No. That is not the reason for the SEPP.

32. We regularly review our laws. We study other countries. Some have similar sentences to the SEPP. We looked at them, and decided that it made sense to have something similar. 

33. In Singapore, as in other places, serious sexual and violent crimes do occur, except that our numbers are generally much lower. But people do get killed. They do get seriously hurt, and they do get raped.

34. These are very serious offences. Some victims, they are very young. And some offenders can be assessed to have a risk of re-offending.

35. Let me give Members an example, which I have talked about publicly. 

- In 2013, an offender was released from prison. He had been put in jail, for raping his 6-year-old stepdaughter. The sentence was for 19 years. He was released after 12 years, which is taking into account the usual one-third Remission period. After he was released, the offender moved in to live with his sister and her young granddaughters. In 2015, just two years after being released, he started sexually assaulting one of the young girls. She was 10 years old at that time. The girl moved out. But he did not stop. In 2017, he sexually assaulted the girl’s younger sister. She was 9 years old. In 2022, the Court sentenced the offender to the maximum 20 years of Preventive Detention. The Court said that his risk of sexual re-offending was high. 

36. This kind of conduct is highly reprehensible. Our society will not accept it. No society will accept it, but our society takes a very serious view of it. And the impact on the young girls is very devastating. Their lives – shattered. 

37. We have to deal with this kind of menace, and protect our society. 

38. Let me give you another example:

- A few weeks ago, a man was sentenced to 29.5 years in jail, for raping his niece. She was 7 years old. For 4 years, he sexually assaulted her, almost every week, when she spent weekends at his home. He also gave her a sexually transmitted disease, and body-shamed her, until she developed an eating disorder. It is absolutely cruel, what was done to that young girl. The girl is now in a welfare home, undergoing counselling. She is facing psychological trauma, as Members can appreciate. The man also had more than 100 media discs with child pornography and a thumb drive with 12,000 child abuse images. 

39. There are other examples of such offenders, committing egregious acts.  Sir, may I ask the Clerks to distribute Annex 2? This is a handout containing more such examples, from Singapore and abroad.

40. Members can see for themselves, the kinds of troubling conduct, the patterns of serious abuse, with persons offending, repeatedly, sometimes, very shortly after they are released from prison. 

41. Our response to these kinds of cases is SEPP.

42. With the normal prison sentences, these offenders go free after serving their prison terms. Even if there is an assessed risk that they might go out and do bad things. On the day of release, responsible people assess that the person might go out and commit serious crimes. Nevertheless, they have to be released.

43. So, take the first example I gave you: The man who sexually abused his two grandnieces. The Court said at the time of sentencing that his risk of sexual re-offending was high, and sentenced him to the maximum 20 years of Preventive Detention. But what if there continues to be an assessed risk after he has served the 20 years? Under the current law, he will have to be released. No conditions. And no risk assessment is done. 

44. With the SEPP, there can be a more calibrated approach, to better protect society. There will be an assessment at the end of the minimum term, to see if it is safe to release such offenders. 

(iii) How will the SEPP work? 

45. This brings me to my next point: how will the SEPP work?

(1) The SEPP is imposed by the Courts. When one of the Scheduled offences is committed, the Court decides whether to impose a normal sentence, or the SEPP. 

(2) When deciding on the appropriate sentence, the Courts can look at risk assessments by IMH, and of course, such other reports as the Court decides are necessary. The Defence can also make representations, and submit expert evidence. 

(3) If the Court assesses that the offender poses a risk to others, it can impose the SEPP. But the Court also retains the discretion not to impose the SEPP, for example – where it would be “gravely disproportionate” in all the circumstances of the case. 

(4) If the Court imposes the SEPP, it will specify a minimum period of custody. That can be anywhere between 5 and 20 years. 

(5) After this minimum period, the offender will be released – if he is assessed to be suitable for release. 

(6) This assessment will be made by the Minister for Home Affairs. 

(7) The Minister will be advised by a Detention Review Board. The Board will be made up of relevant experts – for example: retired judges, lawyers, psychiatrists and psychologists. The offender and his lawyers can make representations to the Board.

(8) This review model is not new. For example, there is a Life Imprisonment Review Board. This Board advises the Minister on whether to release prisoners. These are prisoners who have been sentenced to life imprisonment. 

(9) Next, say the offender is assessed to be suitable for release. He will be released on licence and conditions can be imposed on him. The conditions could include mandatory counselling, electronic monitoring, or curfews. He will continue to be assessed, until a view is taken that the conditions can be removed. In the meantime, we will support his integration back into the community. 

(10) On the other hand, if the assessment is that the offender should not be released, he will continue to remain in custody. The Minister must then review the offender’s suitability for release annually. And if he is eventually found suitable for release, he will be released. 

(iv) What does the SEPP hope to achieve?

46. Finally, on this point, what do we hope to achieve with the SEPP? 

47. First, we hope that this will enhance public protection. An offender who continues to pose a real danger to others should not be released. I gave you some examples earlier. We really ought to deal better with cases like that.

48. Second, the SEPP will hopefully promote rehabilitation. An offender sentenced to the SEPP will have a very strong incentive to take his rehabilitation seriously in the first period of sentencing. Otherwise, he jeopardises his chances of being released. So, if he wants to be released after the minimum period, he will have to show both psychologically and through his behaviour, that he is a changed person, that he can behave well, and he does not need to be kept in. So, there is tremendous incentive for a person to work on his rehabilitation. These things can only work if the person, the subject of the rehabilitation, really puts in the effort.

49. Third, as I mentioned earlier, the SEPP allows for a more calibrated approach to sentencing. 

- Take the examples I had mentioned earlier in the handout. Egregious facts. A sentencing judge might think: “This person is a monster. Better not take the risk with a short sentence. Better to lock him away for a long time.” And so, you do see some sentences: 20 years, 30 years, even more. 

- With the SEPP, sentencing judges will now have more assurance and greater clarity, because the sentences they impose are only the minimum; there will be a further risk assessment, with experts, at the end of the minimum term.  

- This can actually result in the Court imposing shorter sentences upfront.  

(v) SPP

50. Sir, I will now touch quickly on the SPP.  

51. This is intended to replace and streamline the current Corrective Training (CT); and Preventive Detention (PD) regimes. 

52. CT and PD were introduced in 1954, to deal with recalcitrant offenders.

53. Since then, rehabilitation programmes have become widely available to all inmates. 

54. In particular, CT has become qualitatively similar to imprisonment. 

55. So, we have decided to do away with CT, and adopt characteristics of both CT and PD in the new SPP. 

56. SPP is for a fixed term of between 5 and 20 years, and offenders will be eligible for release, on licence, after serving two-thirds of the sentence. 

57. SPP will be a useful sentencing option to deal with persistent or habitual offenders.


58. Finally, let me touch on FME.

59. FMEs broadly consist of physical medical examinations, collection of body samples, and taking photographs of body parts.

60. These processes have now become very important, for getting evidence in offences, like rape, and sexual assault.

61. I will highlight 2 key aspects of the FME framework in the Bill. 

(i) Differentiated Approach 

62. First, we take a differentiated approach towards accused persons and victims. So, accused persons, one approach; victims, a different approach.

63. For accused persons, Police can require them to undergo FMEs, even if they do not consent. 

64. Reasonable force can be used, if the FME does not relate to intimate body parts, or invasive procedures.

65. But it will be an offence for an accused person to refuse an FME – unless he has a reasonable excuse. For example, if he has haemophilia, and giving a blood sample could endanger his life.

66. The Court can also draw adverse inferences from an accused person’s refusal to undergo FMEs.

67. In the case of victims, consent is generally required for FMEs.  

68. However, there can be exceptions. 

- For example, FMEs may still be conducted, if delays will result in the loss of evidence, and the victim is not able to give consent within a reasonable time due to a physical or mental condition.

- This could happen, for example, where a victim is sexually assaulted, falls into a coma, and has no prior authorised decision-maker to give consent. 

69. In many cases, time can be critical – especially for DNA evidence, because DNA can degrade very quickly if it is exposed to the environment. 

70. Allowing FMEs to be taken in these cases, is in the interests of both the victim and the public. It can make the difference between catching the culprit, and him going free; and worse, committing more such offences.

(ii) Safeguards

71. There will be safeguards in place for both accused persons and victims, to ensure that FMEs are conducted safely and sensitively.

72. For example: 

(1) Only qualified medical professionals can conduct physical medical examinations, and invasive medical procedures.

(2) Before taking a body sample, the person conducting the FME must be satisfied that it will not endanger the subject.

(3) Only Police officers holding the rank of Inspector and above can require a FME involving intimate body parts.

(4) If the person undergoing a FME involving intimate body parts is a lady, the forensic specialist or Police officer carrying out the FME must also be a lady. 


73. We have consulted quite extensively, in preparing this Bill.

74. Many stakeholders have shared their views, including the Judiciary, AGC, law enforcement agencies, criminal lawyers, members of the Law Society, and members of the public. 

75. The feedback and suggestions have helped us to refine our policies, and we have taken many of the suggestions on board. 

76. I thank all those who have participated, and given their feedback. 

77. And I hope that Members today will support the Bill. 

78. The changes will do much to strengthen our criminal justice system, and make Singapore a safer place.  

79. Thank you.