Press Releases

First Reading of the Registration of Criminals (Amendment) Bill

Published: 01 August 2022

1.   The Registration of Criminals (Amendment) Bill 2022 was introduced for First Reading in Parliament today. This Bill proposes amendments to the Registration of Criminals Act (RCA) to:

(a)   Enhance the collection of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and non-DNA identifying information (e.g., fingerprints and photographs);[1]

(b)   Introduce procedures to allow the removal of such information recorded in the databases;

(c)   Expand the prescribed uses of DNA information; and

(d)   Strengthen the protection of DNA and non-DNA identifying information recorded.

2.   These amendments will enable law enforcement agencies to carry out their duties to ensure the safety and security of Singapore more effectively, while safeguarding personal data.


Background

3.   The RCA was enacted in 1949 to provide for the registration of criminals. The Act enables the Police to record particulars such as photographs, fingerprints, and conviction records of individuals convicted of serious crimes like murder, rape, and robbery, in the Register of Criminals (“Register”). The Register is a useful tool for Police investigations as the information recorded helps the Police to identify or eliminate suspects in other cases.

4.   The RCA was amended in 2002 to establish a DNA database of criminals. This has enhanced the Police’s investigative capabilities and aided them in solving cases with very few leads. In such cases, the Police can use the DNA database to ascertain whether DNA recovered from the crime scene matches someone who had been convicted of a registrable crime – offences which are more serious and will result in a criminal record.[2]  The results of the DNA analysis can narrow the list of suspects.


Key Amendments

Enhance the Collection of DNA and Non-DNA Identifying Information

5.   DNA and non-DNA identifying information are useful tools for crime-solving and would be more effective if there were larger databases for comparison with samples from the crime scene. Please refer to Annex A for a list of past cases solved via DNA analysis.

Expand Scope of Crimes Eligible for Collection

6.   Currently, the Police can only collect photographs, fingerprints, and DNA information for registrable crimes. Restricting the collection of an individual’s particulars and DNA information to just these types of crime has resulted in smaller databases, which may limit the Police’s ability to solve crimes, especially in cases with very few leads.

7.   With the amendments, the Police will be allowed to collect DNA and non-DNA identifying information for both registrable crimes and “eligible crimes”. Eligible crimes in the context of the Bill are non-registrable crimes which are (1) imprisonable, and (2) not compoundable by the Public Prosecutor or a person authorised by legislation.[3]  Examples of eligible crimes include voluntarily causing hurt and affray.

(a)   Crimes which are not compoundable by the Public Prosecutor or a person authorised by legislation are generally considered to be more serious, such that offenders are not allowed to pay composition sums in lieu of prosecution.

(b)   The Police will therefore not be allowed to collect DNA information for minor offences which are compoundable by the Public Prosecutor or a person authorised by legislation (i.e. offenders can pay composition sums in lieu of prosecution). Examples of such offences include littering and minor parking infringements.

8.   Figure 1 shows the expanded scope of crimes eligible for collection.

Figure 1
RCA - Figure 1

9.   The amendments will allow the Police to expand the DNA and non-DNA identifying information databases and this will enhance their investigative capabilities, by collecting for eligible crimes; but without affecting an individual’s conviction records, as these crimes remain non-registrable.

10.   Please refer to Annex B for more examples of registrable crimes, eligible crimes and offences that remain excluded from collection.

Collect DNA and non-DNA Identifying Information from Individuals Arrested or Detained, or Served with a Restriction Order, Under the Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA)

11.   Currently, we can only collect fingerprints and photographs of individuals arrested or detained under the ISA. To better safeguard against threats to our national security, the RCA will be amended to allow the Police to collect DNA and non-DNA identifying information from individuals who are arrested, or served with a Detention Order or Restriction Order, under the ISA.

Introduce New Offence for Accused Individual Who Refuses to Provide a Blood Sample Without Reasonable Excuse

12.   Today, an individual who has committed a registrable crime and who refuses to have his photograph or fingerprints taken without reasonable excuse shall be guilty of an offence and be liable on conviction to a fine of up to $1,000 or to imprisonment for a term of up to one month or to both.

13.   However, it is not an offence if the individual refuses to provide his blood sample (for DNA information) without good cause, and only a negative inference may be drawn against him in court proceedings. Blood samples yield more DNA than other types of body sample, and are hence more useful for DNA comparison. Therefore, we will now introduce a new offence for refusal to provide blood samples without good cause, on top of the existing negative inference that may be drawn again him in court proceedings. The penalty for this new offence will be the same as the penalty for refusal to provide photographs and fingerprints without reasonable excuse.

Allow Any Volunteer to Provide DNA and Non-DNA Identifying Information

14.   Currently, only individuals who are present at the crime scene or questioned for investigations can voluntarily provide their DNA to the Police. Moving forward, we will allow any individual to provide their DNA and/or non-DNA identifying information voluntarily to the Police. Volunteers may also request the Police to delete their information at any time, and the Police will and must accede to their request.

Introduce Procedures to Allow the Removal of Such Information Recorded in the Databases

New Procedure for Certain Individuals to Apply to Remove their Data


15.   Expanding the databases serves public interest as the data is useful in helping the Police solve crimes, exonerate the innocent, and identify the culprit. Today, where DNA information had been taken and the individual is subsequently acquitted or discharged by the court, or his offence compounded, or he is found to not be involved in the commission of any crime, the Police are required to immediately remove the individual’s data from their records. Non-DNA identifying information is also removed. This may result in the removal of DNA and non-DNA identifying information that are relevant to another ongoing prosecution or investigation, or where retention is in the interests of the security of Singapore.

16.   With the amendments, individuals who have been acquitted, granted a discharge amounting to acquittal, or had their offence compounded under any written law[4], may apply to the Police to remove their data. The Police will remove their data save under prescribed circumstances, i.e. where the Police have reasonable grounds to believe that the retention of the DNA or non-DNA identifying information is either relevant to other ongoing prosecutions or investigations, or necessary to safeguard our national security. If the Police reject the application, the individual may appeal to a Reviewing Tribunal within 30 days of the Police’s determination.

Introduction of a Reviewing Tribunal

17.   An independent Reviewing Tribunal comprising a District Judge or Magistrate will be set up to hear appeals against a decision by the Police to reject an application for data removal. The decisions made by the Reviewing Tribunal will be final.

18.   Where the acquittal is in relation to offences under the Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Act 2021 (FICA) and the ISA, the Minister for Home Affairs may issue a certificate if the retention of the data is in the interests of national security. The Minister for Home Affairs’ determination will be conclusive. The Reviewing Tribunal must dismiss the appeal if the Minister’s certificate is presented by the Police.

19.   Please refer to Annex C for a summary of the current and proposed collection and retention regime.

Expand the prescribed uses of DNA information

20.   Today, DNA information may only be used for criminal investigations by Police officers, forensic comparison with other DNA information and for criminal proceedings. This means that the Police cannot use the DNA information for other non-prescribed purposes, even if it is in the public interest.

21.   The amendments will allow DNA information to be used to identify a dead individual, and for any investigations and inquiries into a death. They will also allow for the identification of an individual, who is otherwise unidentified or unable to identify himself, so that the Police may assist him.

22.   The amendments will also strengthen international cooperation in the prevention and investigation of crimes. DNA information of individuals convicted of a registrable crime may be shared with foreign law enforcement agencies if assessed to be necessary by the Police for investigations or proceedings. The foreign law enforcement agency will be required to provide an undertaking to safekeep the data, limit its uses, and destroy the DNA information upon conclusion of its use. The DNA information of individuals convicted of non-registrable crimes, non-convicted individuals and volunteers will not be shared with foreign law enforcement agencies.

Strengthen the protection of DNA and non-DNA identifying information recorded

23.   Legislative safeguards will be introduced to protect the information recorded in the various databases against any loss, modification, and unauthorised access. For example, persons accessing the databases will have to be screened and authorised by the Police. All access to the databases will be logged and recorded. There will also be a tamper proof audit trail to detect any data modification. These measures will safeguard and prevent the misuse of such sensitive data. Officers who misuse their powers will be dealt with severely.



Annex A - Cases Solved by DNA Analysis (PDF, 144KB)
Annex B - Examples of Registry Crimes, Eligible Crimes and Minor Offences that Remain Excluded from Collection (PDF, 39KB) 
Annex C - Summary of Proposed Changes to the Collection and Removal of DNA and Non-DNA Identifying Information (PDF, 106KB)

[1] “Non-DNA identifying information” refers to

(a) any description of the individual, including the individual’s sex, age or apparent age, bodily appearance and height;
(b) any document that contains information that identifies the individual;
(c) any finger impression of the individual;
(d) any name of the individual or any name by which the individual is or is believed to have been known;
(e) any photograph of the individual.


[2] “Registrable crimes” are currently set out in the First Schedule and Second Schedule of the RCA, and comprise more serious offences, which include murder, rape, and robbery.

[3] For avoidance of doubt, this is different from compounding by the victim (for crimes listed under the Fourth Schedule of the Criminal Procedure Code 2010), for example, unlawful stalking, voluntarily causing hurt and wrongful confinement. These offences are imprisonable, and not compoundable by the Public Prosecutor or a person authorised by legislation, and are therefore “eligible crimes”.   

[4] This includes crimes compoundable by the victim (under the Fourth Schedule to the Criminal Procedure Code 2010), such as unlawful stalking, voluntarily causing hurt and wrongful confinement.