Speech by Mr. Louis Ng Kok Kwang, MP for Nee Soon GRC, at the Second Reading of the Criminal Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill (Bill No. 20/2021)
Sir, this Bill follows the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Law’s review of the sentencing framework for sexual and hurt offences.
The amendments in this Bill have been raised through a considered process and take into account public moral norms as seen through reactions to high profile sentencing decisions in sexual and hurt offences.
I have three points to make.
Treatment for offenders of sexual and hurt offences
First, I would like to seek clarification on the measures to ensure that adult offenders who commit sexual and hurt offences no longer pose a threat to public safety once they have served their sentences.
This Bill will raise the maximum penalties for outrage of modesty, engaging in a sexual activity in the presence of a minor, and causing a minor to view sexual images.
This is consistent with Minister Shanmugam’s Ministerial Statement last month, when Minister stated that the sentences for sexual and hurt offences must reflect that such acts are deeply offensive to society’s fundamental values.
Also in line with this is the announcement that the AGC will generally object to rehabilitative sentences, such as probation and community-based sentences, where the offenders are adults who commit certain types of hurt or sexual offences.
I agree with the strong signal sent by focusing on the punitive purpose of sentencing for adult offenders of hurt and sexual offences.
However, even with a harsh sentence, there remains a need to ensure that such offenders receive appropriate counselling and treatment.
Can Minister share what kinds of counselling and treatment are provided to offenders of hurt and sexual offences? Will they receive such treatment only during their sentence? Is there scope to consider mandating post-release treatment for such offenders, where medical and psychiatric professionals deem necessary?
Meaning of intent to cause injury
My second point is on the changes of the fault element for certain offences from “malice” to “intent to cause injury” for certain offences. The purpose of this is to clarify the fault element of the offence.
Injury is defined under the Penal Code as “any harm whatever illegally caused to any person, in body, mind, reputation or property”.
Can Minister confirm that an “intent to cause injury” does not succeed in causing the specific type of injury intended, or the offender does not succeed in injuring the intended victim?
Can Minister also clarify whether emotional injury such as feelings of harassment or distress, not amounting to psychiatric or mental injury, constitutes injury?
Guidelines on quantum of compensation orders
My second point is on compensation orders for victims.
Under section 359 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the Court is required after the conviction of an accused to consider whether or not to make an order for the accused to pay compensation to the person injured.
This gives due regard to the harm suffered by the victim of a crime who is an equal participant in the criminal justice system, and not simply a means to an end of convicting the accused.
This is also an important mechanism to provide some measure of compensation for the victim of a crime, without requiring the victim to commence lengthy and costly civil proceedings separately after criminal proceedings conclude.
Minister Shanmugam announced in his Ministerial Statement that the Ministry will be setting up a Sentencing Advisory Panel to issue non-binding sentencing guidelines.
Will Minister also consider including in the Panel’s scope of work a review and publication of guidelines on compensation quantum under section 359 of the Criminal Procedure Code?
Sir, notwithstanding these points, I stand in support of the Bill.
Watch the speech here.