Published: 09 May 2022
Mr Saktiandi Supaat: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs with regard to harassment of public servants or public service workers in the execution of their duties (a) how many of such cases have been prosecuted in 2019, 2020 and 2021 respectively; (b) what was the average sentence for the convicted cases; and (c) whether the criminal offences under the purview of the Protection from Harassment Act 2014 can be expanded to protect other frontliners like private healthcare workers.
Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law:
1. Under the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA), offenders who are convicted of harassment are liable for a fine of up to $5,000, or an imprisonment term of up to six months, or both. Where the victim is a public servant or public service worker, the punishment is higher – offenders are liable for a fine of up to $5,000, or an imprisonment term of up to 12 months, or both.
2. In more egregious cases, offenders can be charged with other offences under the Penal Code, where the punishments are higher. For example, under Section 332 of the Penal Code, offenders who are convicted for voluntarily causing hurt to a public servant are liable for an imprisonment term of up to seven years, and are also liable for a fine, or caning.
3. 175, 185 and 114 cases of harassment against public servants or public service workers were prosecuted for offences under POHA in 2019, 2020 and 2021 respectively. We do not track the average sentence of such cases.
4. The Member asked whether POHA can be expanded to protect other frontliners like private healthcare workers. To clarify, any offender can be convicted of harassment under POHA, regardless of who the victim is, including private healthcare workers.
5. For the purpose of additional protection, POHA classifies individuals as public service workers, if their job serves the general public, and not just patrons of a private business or establishment. These include healthcare professionals in public healthcare institutions such as public hospitals and polyclinics.
6. Most recently, in 2021, we expanded the list of public service workers for the purposes of additional protection under POHA, to include private healthcare workers directly involved in COVID-19 operations. This group of private healthcare workers are serving the general public, as part of the national healthcare framework dealing with COVID-19, and not just their private clients. The Ministry of Home Affairs will continue to regularly review this list of public service workers under POHA.