Published: 11 May 2021
Mr Yip Hon Weng asked the Minister for Home Affairs in light of a number of high-profile abuse cases against vulnerable persons, often in the presence of family members who do not report or have even contributed to the abuse, whether the Minister will consider strengthening the legal framework to penalise eyewitnesses and participants whose inactions have allowed the crime to continue.
1. The Penal Code was amended in 2019 to enhance protections for vulnerable victims. Enhanced penalties can be imposed for most hurt and sexual offences that are committed against children below 14 years of age, domestic workers, and vulnerable persons (defined as individuals who are substantially unable to protect themselves due to mental or physical disabilities).
2. The amendments also introduced new offences under the Penal Code to target persons in the same household who failed to protect vulnerable victims from abuse, and whose inaction allowed the abuse to continue. Section 335A of the Penal Code makes it an offence for persons responsible for the safety and well-being of domestic workers or vulnerable persons in their care, custody, or control, to fail to protect them from abuse or neglect. Under section 5 of the Children and Young Persons Act, it was already an offence to knowingly permit a child or young person to be ill-treated by another person and the amendments in 2019 increased the penalties.
3. Where abuse leads to death, section 304C of the Penal Code makes it an offence for persons in the same household who have frequent contact with victims that are below the age of 14, domestic workers, or vulnerable persons, to fail to take reasonable steps to protect them from abuse or neglect.
4. These offences came into force on 1 January 2020, and apply to offences committed on or after that date.