Speech by Mr. Louis Ng Kok Kwang, MP for Nee Soon GRC, at the Second Reading of the Private Security Industry (Amendment) Bill (Bill No. 22/2021)
Sir, COVID-19 has made life harder for our security officers. In addition to their usual work, many now have to do the thankless task of enforcing COVID-19 safe-management measures.
The Union of Security Employees says that this has increased tensions for security officers.
Indeed, a survey of 1,002 security officers between September and November 2020 found that 2 out of 5 security officers had experienced some form of abuse in the course of their work.
I thank our security officers for their service. This Bill is a welcome step to increase protection for them.
I have two points of clarification.
Scope of security officer’s duty
First, I would like to ask what counts as a security officer’s duty.
This Bill is meant to protect security officers from abuse. To this end, it strongly punishes individuals for assaulting, hurting or harassing security officers.
However, this enhanced punishment kicks in only if it happens during the “execution or discharge” of duty by the officer.
Can Minister share what counts as the execution and discharge of an officer’s duty?
Do these new offences apply only to functions outlined in Section 13 of the Private Security Industry Act? Or do they apply to any functions reasonably connected to a security officer’s work?
We need to be clear about this, as security officers may be required to perform diverse tasks not outlined in Section 13 of the Act. Such tasks may equally put the security officers at risk of abuse and harassment. We should look to protect security officers performing such tasks, too.
Defences against intentional harassment
My second clarification relates to the defences against the offence of intentionally causing harassment, alarm, or distress to a security officer under section 17C.
Notably, the wording of section 17C tracks the wording used in section 3 of the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA). Section 3 of POHA deals with the offence of intentionally causing harassment, alarm, or distress.
One of the defences to section 17C is that the accused did not know or had no reason to believe that the words, behavior, or communication would be perceived by the target person.
However, this is not a defence to the similar offence of intentionally causing harassment in section 3 of POHA.
Instead, this defence appears only in section 4 of POHA. Section 4 of POHA deals with the offence of behaviour, which is likely to cause harassment, alarm, or distress.
Importantly, section 4 is different from section 3 of POHA in that it does not require intention to cause harassment.
It seems inconsistent that a defence to a harassment offence in POHA that does not require the element of intention now applies to a harassment offence in the Private Security Industry Act, which requires intention.
In addition to inconsistency across legislation, this seems difficult to understand in principle.
Surely, someone who acted with the intention to harass another person should not be allowed to say that they had no reason to believe the harassing conduct would not be perceived by the victim.
Can Minister clarify why this defence applies to intentional harassment under section 17C when it does not apply to intentional harassment under POHA?
Does this suggest that intentional harassment under the Private Security Industry Act has a different scope from intentional harassment under POHA?
Sir, notwithstanding my clarifications, I stand in support of the bill.
Watch the speech here.