Published: 28 February 2022
1. Amendments to the Penal Code and criminal provisions in other legislation will come into effect on 1 March 2022. They comprise the majority of amendments introduced through the Criminal Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act 2021 which was passed by Parliament on 13 September 2021.
2. These amendments will (i) increase the penalties for three sexual offences, including outrage of modesty; (ii) expand and clarify the scope of certain offences and defences; and (iii) modernise the language of certain terms.
Increasing Penalties for Sexual Offences
3. First, the amendments will increase the penalties for three sexual offences:
(a) Outrage of Modesty: To enhance deterrence, and allow the courts to deal with egregious cases more severely, the maximum imprisonment term for outrage of modesty under section 354(1) of the Penal Code will be increased from two years to three years.
(b) Engaging in Sexual Activity in the Presence of a Minor or Showing Sexual Image to a Minor: The amendments will increase the maximum imprisonment term from one to two years for the offences of: (i) engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a minor between 14 and 16 years of age or causing a minor between 14 and 16 years of age to view a sexual image (under section 376ED(3)(b) of the Penal Code); and (ii) engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a minor between 16 and 18 years of age or causing a minor between 16 and 18 years of age to view a sexual image, if the offender is in an exploitative relationship with the minor (under section 376EE of the Penal Code). This ensures parity with similar offences involving sexual communication with minors of the same age ranges (under sections 376EB(3)(b) and 376EC of the Penal Code respectively), which carry a maximum imprisonment term of two years.
Expanding and Clarifying Certain Offences and Defences
4. Second, the amendments will expand and clarify the scope of the following offences and defences:
(a) Provision of False Information to a Public Servant:
(i) Section 182 of the Penal Code covers the giving of false information to a public servant with the intent of causing, or knowing that it will likely cause, the public servant to improperly use, or not to use, his lawful powers. The amendments will expand section 182 to cover scenarios where a person gives false information with the intent of causing, or knowing that it will likely cause, the public servant to be ineffective or inefficient in exercising his lawful powers (e.g. intentionally misleading the Police about the identity of a suspect).
(ii) Section 186 of the Penal Code (obstructing public servant in discharge of his public functions) will also be amended to clarify that “obstruction” may arise from providing false information, and not just physically obstructing the public servant. The maximum imprisonment term for section 186 will also be increased from three months to six months, to align the penalty with a similar offence under section 177(1) of the Penal Code (giving false information to a public servant, while legally bound to give information).
(b) Procuring Sexual Activity by Deception or False Representation: Section 376H of the Penal Code makes it an offence for a person to obtain consent for sexual activity by deceiving the victim about the use of any sexually protective measure, or about whether the person whom the victim is induced to touch carries a sexually transmitted disease (“STD”). The amendments will broaden section 376H in two ways: (i) to cover a person who induces, through deception or false representation, the victim to consent to being touched sexually by a third person; and (ii) to clarify that it may be an offence if the deception pertains to the risk of the victim contracting a STD (e.g. where an offender lies to the victim that the offender’s STD is not transmissible via sexual activity).
(c) Sexual Penetration of a Corpse: The amendments will make the offence of sexual penetration of a corpse gender-neutral, and expand its scope to cover other forms of sexual penetration involving corpses.
(d) Offences relating to Voyeurism, Child Abuse Material, and Abusive Material of Minors: The amendments will clarify the definition and scope of certain terms used in the context of offences involving voyeurism, child abuse material, and abusive material.
Modernising the Language of Certain Terms in the Penal Code
5. Third, the amendments will replace certain archaic terms (such as “wantonly”, “malignantly” and “maliciously”) with terms which are more easily understood, and already defined in the Penal Code (such as “rashly” or “intentionally”).
Amendments Taking Effect at a Later Date
6. Section 3 of the Criminal Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act 2021 will amend section 74 of the Penal Code, to expand the jurisdiction of a Magistrate’s Court and a District Court relating to racially or religiously aggravated offences as specified in section 74(2) of the Penal Code, as amended by section 17 of the Maintenance of Religious Harmony (Amendment) Act 2019. Section 3 of the Criminal Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act 2021 will come into force at a later date together with the commencement of the Maintenance of Religious Harmony (Amendment) Act 2019.
Ministry of Home Affairs
Ministry of Law