Published: 14 April 2023
Ladies and Gentlemen
1. A very good morning to all of you, including Stephanie, Georgette, and other partners. Police have organised this important seminar with our partners to discuss how we can better manage sexual crime cases – from reporting, investigation, all the way to victim care.
2. We do these seminars regularly, and we approach this with the idea that we learn, and that we try and do better. There will always be situations where we can learn better; we will never get this completely right, because any organisation that has a large number of people dealing with a large number of different types of cases, with human agency, even with the best will in the world, there will be errors, if not something else. And we will just have to continuously learn, internalise and improve.
3. The key is that the Police take this extremely seriously, as you can see.
4. If you look at the legislative backdrop – and I've spoken about this previously – four years ago, in 2019, we introduced new laws in the Penal Code to deter sexual crimes that are facilitated by technology, including voyeurism. There were increased penalties for offences committed against persons who are in a close or intimate relationship, because in the past, the only recourse for these persons was if you’re married and you could go under the Women’s Charter, get injunctions, and so on. But if you're not married, then it really becomes a question of whether there was assault, or whether there was some other criminal offence.
5. So, we sought to protect persons who are in an intimate partner relationship, because that's a changing social more, and they were given rights, particularly women in such a situation who may not be able to prove a normal crime of assault. But if something has happened, we also provided for increased penalties in such situations. Two years ago, we amended the Penal Code to increase penalties specifically for three sexual offences, including outrage of modesty, which is probably the most common offence that's committed.
6. This year, we will introduce a new Online Criminal Harms Act. It will seek to deal more effectively with online activities that would be criminal if they had happened in the physical realm.
Management of Sexual Crime Cases
7. At last year’s Sexual Assault Awareness Seminar, I spoke about the Police’s review of the management of sexual crimes, and that it covered four areas: (i) Operational and investigative processes; (ii) Training for Police officers; (iii) Public awareness of sexual crime investigations and court processes; and (iv) Community partnerships to strengthen support for victims.
8. Arising from that review, Police have put in place three initiatives to better support victims of sexual crime. And this is largely because of our partners, that we have been able to put in place some of those things that we spoke about.
9. First, there has been a formation of the Sexual Crime and Family Violence Command – a specific Command which has officers who are specifically trained to deal with sexual crime and family violence cases. The Command is now under the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and is operational.
10. Second, we have gone into enhanced training. And due to the close nexus between sexual crime and family violence, Police have put together a set of topics to cross-train officers dealing with both types of cases. For example, in 2022 last year, more than 3,500 frontline officers and investigation officers received sensitivity training on engagement and management of family violence victims.
11. Third, improving public awareness and education. The Police webpage on sexual crime has been revamped. It has become a one-stop place for information on sexual crimes and investigation processes.
12. This year, we will increase our efforts to support victims of sexual crime. And that, hopefully, will lower the barriers to report sexual crimes.
13. From April of this year, this month, Police will progressively roll out what they call a “Sexual Crime Report” option, when you go to the queue management kiosks at Neighbourhood Police Centres (NPCs).
14. Today, when someone makes a Police report at the NPC, they have to get a queue number at the kiosk, indicating what type of report they want to lodge.
15. With the new “Sexual Crime Report” option at the kiosk, when someone selects this option, the system will immediately alert officers at the NPC, and the person reporting the sexual crime will then be given priority and some privacy when they come forward to report.
16. Police are also improving their infrastructure and processes. For example, the One-Stop Abuse Forensic Examination Centre, or OneSAFE Centre, will open this month with an enhanced, improved design. The redesigned layout and environment of the Centre will provide victims with more privacy, more comfort, during the investigation process. The Centre will also include two new medical rooms, which will increase the capacity for forensic medical examination.
17. The Police are working closely with stakeholders to expand the eligibility criteria for Multi-Disciplinary Interviews, so that more young victims can benefit. Multi-Disciplinary Interviews combine what used to be separate interviews by different parties – Police, child protection officers, doctors – into a coordinated interview led by the Police. And so, it reduces the need, particularly for child victims of serious sexual crimes, to recount the incidents over and over again to different parties, which could add to the trauma that they have already suffered.
18. These are just some examples of what we are doing to better manage sexual crime cases.
19. At the same time, we cannot do this without building key partnerships. Close partnerships are critical for Police, and that has what helped us understand and move in this direction quite far.
20. Let me highlight two of the partners, with whom we work closely.
21. First, the Care Corner Project StART, or CCPS. It is a protection specialist centre that also works with victims who face complex issues, such as sexual violence within the family. CCPS offers a Sexual Assault Recovery Programme that helps to support victims of sexual assault, and helps them deal with it at the start of their recovery journey. Since July of last year, Police have started working with CCPS, so that CCPS can work with the victims of serious sexual crimes who come forward and file reports with the Police.
22. The second is SHE, or SG Her Empowerment. It is a non-profit organisation that works with the community and various partners to empower girls and women. After it was formed in September 2022, one of its first projects was to set up a centre to support victims of online harm called SHECARES @ SCWO. And since January of this year, Police have piloted an initiative with SHE to better support sexual crime victims. When SHE is the first touchpoint for a victim of certain types of sexual crimes, where urgent medical examination is not needed, and depending on the victim’s age, the victim can be interviewed by the Police at the SHECARES @ SCWO premises. The victim will also receive support from staff at SHE.
23. So, we will strengthen our partnerships with CCPS and SHE, and other partners. Really, we are all on the same page, trying to better support victims of sexual crimes.
24. Together, we will continue to do more, not just to reduce sexual crimes in Singapore, but to also enhance the support for victims.
25. I wish everyone a fruitful seminar. Thank you.