Published: 06 February 2017
Dr Lim Wee Kiak: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) in the past five years, how many cases of child sex offences have been reported; (b) what is being done to reduce such crimes; and (c) whether there are plans to create a sex offender registry with limited access given to agencies and communities that can benefit from the information.
1. From 2012 to 2016, the Police investigated an annual average of 325 cases of serious sexual crimes involving victims below the age of 16. Sexual penetration of minor made up the majority of serious sexual crimes, accounting for about 230 cases a year on average. This is followed by about 75 cases of rape a year and 20 cases of sexual assault by penetration a year.
2. Over the same period, the Police also investigated about 290 cases of outrage of modesty and 45 cases of sexual exploitation and sexual grooming per year. The trend for sexual crimes involving victims below 16 years of age has been stable over the past five years.
3. We take a serious view of sexual crimes, in particular when the victims are minors. To tackle these offences, we adopt a four-pronged approach.
4. Firstly, the Penal Code imposes stiff penalties for serious sexual offences. For instance, rape is punishable with an imprisonment term of up to 20 years and also liable to caning. If the rape involved a minor under the age of 14 without consent, the enhanced punishment is an imprisonment term of not less than 8 years and up to 20 years with minimum 12 strokes of caning. We have also created specific offences targeting those who take advantage of the vulnerable, such as sexual grooming of minors.
5. Secondly, we enforce these laws firmly. Police take all allegations of sexual offences seriously. Sexual crimes are investigated by specialist units in the Police Divisions and the Criminal Investigation Department. The investigation officers in these units are trained to handle sexual crime investigations, as well as to manage sexual crime victims, including minors, with appropriate sensitivity.
6. Thirdly, we take a robust approach towards rehabilitation and reintegration of sex offenders, so as to reduce reoffending. For less serious offences, the court may make mandatory treatment orders requiring the sex offender to undergo psychiatric treatment. Sex offenders who are imprisoned for more serious offences are put through the sex offender treatment programme administered by the Singapore Prison Service, which seeks to reduce reoffending by enhancing self-management of sex offending behaviour.
7. Fourthly, the Police also work with relevant agencies to put in place proactive safeguards. These include conducting talks in MOE schools to educate students on precautions to protect themselves from sexual assault, and to raise awareness of the legal and social consequences of teenage sex. The Police also train teachers and school counsellors to recognise and report tell-tale signs of sexual assault or abuse in students.
8. The Member asked about plans to create a sex offender registry with limited access given to agencies. The Registration of Criminal Act allows the Police to maintain a non-public record of persons convicted of serious offences, including sexual offences. Agencies such as MOE and MSF work closely with the Police to screen prospective employees who are applying for jobs involving children. For example, MOE screens prospective employees for child care centres, kindergartens and schools with the Police. These processes ensure that persons who have committed serious sexual crimes are not employed in sensitive positions which may put children at risk, but without publicly listing sex offenders which will add to the stigmatisation of these offenders and hinder rehabilitation and reintegration efforts.