Published: 04 January 2021
Ms Raeesah Khan: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) in the last three years what is the annual number of sexual assault cases that have been handled by the One-Stop Abuse Forensic Examination Centre (OneSafe Centre) as a percentage of the total number of sexual assault cases handled by the police; and (b) whether there are any plans to review the 72-hour time frame for sexual assault forensic examinations.
Ms Raeesah Khan: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) what is the rationale for requiring a parent’s/guardian’s signature for sexual assault victims under the age of 21 years old to undergo the necessary forensic and medical examinations; and (b) whether the Ministry will consider (i) lowering the age threshold to 16, in line with the age of consent for sexual activity or (ii) permitting signatures from prescribed third parties to encourage the reporting of sexual assault offences.
1. Ms Raeesah Khan had asked for information related to sexual assault cases and forensic medical examinations.
2. Forensic medical examinations of victims are required in cases of rape and sexual assault by penetration - serious sexual crimes. Such examinations are generally conducted for victims whose cases are reported within 72 hours of the assault. Scientifically, the 72-hour time frame is the most effective window to recover forensic evidence, as recommended by the World Health Organisation. For cases beyond 72 hours, Police may order the forensic medical examinations to be conducted if there is reason to believe that evidence can still be recovered through the examination.
3. From 2017-2019, there were 70 such examinations at the OneSAFE centre.Victims of serious sexual crimes have also beenexamined at hospitals. Sometimes, examinations might not be conducted because of the facts and circumstances, for example, if the offence is dated and forensic evidence cannot be recovered.
4. The victim’s consent is required before conducting a forensic medical examination because such examinations are highly intrusive. As victims under 21 years old are considered minors under common law, in such cases, Police and the public healthcare institutions will seek consent from both the victim and the victim’s parent or guardian.
5. MHA has been reviewing the minimum age of consent to these examinations, among other issues.