New Guidelines on Rape Sentencing

New sentencing framework for rape offences

Singapore’s apex court recently laid down a new sentencing framework for rape offences in Ng Kean Meng Terence v Public Prosecutor. Noting that it was timely to review the current state of sentencing laws with regard to rape offences, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Justices of Appeal Chao Hick Tin and Andrew Phang laid down the law in their 60-page decision, in early May 2017.

This represents a significant shift from the previous sentencing framework, which Singapore criminal lawyers are very familiar with, put in place 10 years ago in the seminal case of Public Prosecutor v NF. The new sentencing framework is broadly based off the “two-step sentencing bands approach” as observed  in the New Zealand Court of Appeal case of R v Taueki.


Ng Kean Meng Terence v Public Prosecutor [2017] SGCA 37

Public Prosecutor v NF [2006] 4 SLR(R) 849

R v Taueki [2005] 3 NZLR 372

The New Framework

The new framework is as follows:

    1. Classification of the offence and identifying the sentencing band the offence in question falls within, takes into consideration  offence-specific” factors. Once the sentencing band is identified, the court will then determine precisely where the offence falls within that range. This is in order to derive an “indicative starting point“.
    2. Calibrating the appropriate sentence with regards to “offender-specific” factors, which are personal to the offender.

Step 1a: Classification of the offence

In this step, the court will regard only “offence-specific” factors. These factors are those which relate to the circumstances of the offence and will be crucial in the court’s calibrating of an appropriate sentencing band. Several “offence-specific” factors were outlined by the court, in a non-exhaustive fashion, as listed below:


“Offence-specific” factor



Group rape

Offences which are committed by groups of persons, even if not the product of syndicated or planned action, are more serious.


Abuse of position and breach of trust

Where the offender is in a position of responsibility towards the victim (for example in a doctor-patient or teacher-student relationship). When such an offender commits rape, it is especially heinous due to the violation of the trust bestowed on him by society and the victim.



The presence of planning and premeditation shows a considerable commitment towards law-breaking. Examples include, the use of drugs to reduce the victim’s resistance or arranging to meet the victim in a secluded area under a false pretence.



Under s 375(3) of the Penal Code, the actual or threatened use of violence in the course of rape is a statutory aggravating factor.


Rape of vulnerable victim

The rape of a victim who is especially vulnerable because of age, physical frailty, mental impairment or learning disability.


Forcible rape of a victim below 14

The policy of the law is that a female under 14 cannot consent to sexual activity, and if the victim did not consent, the offence is particularly serious.


Hate crime

The commission of rape as an expression of racial or religious prejudice is especially despicable.


Severe harm to victim

Where the rape results in especially serious physical or mental effects on the victim (such as pregnancy or the transmission of a serious disease).


Deliberate infliction of special trauma

Where there is deliberate infliction of special trauma or where there is a rape by a man who knows he is suffering from a life-threatening sexually transmissible disease.

Step 1b): Identifying the sentencing band the offence falls within

The following sentencing bands prescribe ranges of sentences. These define the range of sentences usually imposed for a case with those “offence-specific” features.

S. No

Sentencing band


Band 1 comprises of cases at the lower end of the spectrum of seriousness. These cases attract sentences of 10–13 years of imprisonment and 6 strokes of the cane.

Such cases feature no “offence-specific” aggravating factors or are cases where these factors are only present to a very limited extent and therefore, have a limited impact on the sentence.


Band 2 comprises of rape cases of a higher level of seriousness. These cases attract sentences of 13–17 years of imprisonment and 12 strokes of the cane. Such cases would usually contain two or more “offence-specific” aggravating factors


Band 3 comprises of rape cases which, by reason of the number and intensity of the aggravating factors,, present themselves as extremely serious cases of rape. They should attract sentences of between 17–20 years of imprisonment and 18 strokes of the cane.

The court will first identify the appropriate Band and then determine precisely where within the range the “indicative starting point” for sentencing is, with consideration to the“offence-specific” factors.

Step 2: Calibrating the appropriate sentence

In the second step, the court will consider the aggravating and mitigating factors that are personal to the offender in order to calibrate the appropriate sentence for that offender. The following “offender-specific” factors relate to the offender’s specific personal circumstances. The court will clearly articulate the factors it has taken into consideration as well as the merit given to them.

S. No.

“Offender-specific” aggravating factor



Evident lack of remorse

For example, if the offender conducts his defence in an extravagant and unnecessary manner.


The presence of relevant antecedents

If the antecedent offence(s) was the same as that of the proceeded charge, the sentence might be more severe.


Offences taken into consideration for the purposes of sentencing

This can be demonstrated by, among other things, cooperation with the police.

“Offender-specific” mitigating factor


Display of evident remorse

For example, where the offender apologises after the incident.



The youth of the offender, and in turn his rehabilitation, is a pertinent consideration.


Advanced age

Although the advanced age of an offender is not generally a factor that warrants a sentencing discount, the courts do keep in mind that the imposition of substantial custodial terms deprives the elderly of a large fraction of their life expectancy.

The Court of Appeal also discussed the mitigating value of a plea of guilt and deemed that it should be assessed in terms of (i) the extent to which it is a signal of remorse; (ii) the savings in judicial resources; and (iii) the extent to which it spared the victim the ordeal of testifying.

Moving forward

The new Singapore framework, modelled after the Taueki methodology, has been lauded for bringing clarity, transparency, coherence, and consistency to our current state of rape sentencing laws. This is a positive change in the right direction and all that remains is to wait and see how our judiciary applies this new framework in the years to come.

Our Criminal Lawyer, Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu, has defended numerous clients over the years over a wide variety of offences. With vast experience in Singapore’s laws, Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu will be able to provide valuable and timely advice for your situation. For more information, or if you have been caught in a similar situation, feel free to contact us for a consultation.

Sentencing Framework for Maid Abuse Cases

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High Court sets out sentencing framework to clarify and guide maid abuse cases

A man found guilty of maid abuse saw his appeal against his conviction thrown out, and had his sentence raised by 15 months. This development comes as the High Court sets out a new sentencing framework for cases involving maid abuse.

Both husband and wife were sentenced to 28 months and 2 months imprisonment respectively, last March. The sentence was passed by a district court, for abusing their Indonesian domestic helper for a period of two years. The defendants filed an appeal against their conviction, while the prosecution appealed for higher sentences for the couple.

On Friday (March 2), a panel of three judges — comprising Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, Judge of Appeal Tay Yong Kwang and Justice See Kee Oon — found the husband’s original sentence “manifestly inadequate” and upped his jail term to 43 months. His wife sentence still stands at two months.

During the 14-day trial earlier, the district court heard that the couple, who have three children, subjected the victim to constant physical and emotional abuse when she worked for them from December 2010 to December 2012.

Tay, a former regional IT manager, accused the victim of breaking a religious statue, which the couple’s daughter had knocked off a cabinet. As punishment, he forced the helper to stand on a stool for half an hour on one leg while holding another stool over her head. He also stuffed an incense bottle in her mouth.

On two other occasions, he accused the victim of stealing his medicine and not reporting his daughter’s refusal to study. He then hit her head with a bamboo stick, and also with a bundle of three canes on a separate occasion. Chia also slapped and punched the domestic helper on the forehead.

Tay made the victim and their other Burmese domestic helper kneel and get up in front of a Buddhist altar 100 times, then slap each other 10 times. He also made them assume a push-up position and kicked the victim at her waist.

Additionally, he tried to bribe the victim by offering to pay her full salary and send her back to Indonesia, in exchange for not reporting his offences to the police. He also instructed her to lie to the police by saying he did not abuse the Burmese domestic helper.

Delivering the decision on Friday, Justice See noted that psychological abuse along with physical harm characterises “egregious” instances of maid abuse, with domestic helpers being particularly vulnerable due to their circumstances. The court also takes into critical consideration “the emotional trauma resulting from psychological abuse”.

Justice See also added that “The psychological harm and mental anguish they can suffer from being trapped in a situation of fear, abuse and oppression can be just as acute and enduring as physical harm, if not more.” In dismissing the prosecution’s appeal against the wife’s sentence, Justice See said she had inflicted “predominantly physical” harm to the victim. But he noted the husband’s sentence was manifestly inadequate, given the degree of psychological and physical harm the employer had caused the helper.

In their written judgement, the three judges pointed out the “humiliating and degrading” nature of the abuse, especially for the victims who were Muslim and Christian, made to bow before a Buddhist altar.

“Although he had no past convictions, the number and frequency of the attacks show that he was habitual and unrestrained in his abuse,” the judgement read.

To that end, the High Court set out a sentencing framework for cases of maid abuse.

(i) If the abuse was mainly physical, the court should consider the degree of harm, as well as the aggravating and mitigating factors, in deciding on the appropriate sentence.

(ii) If the abuse was both physical and psychological, the court then needs to identify the degree of harm caused in relation to each charge.

The court should then adjust the sentence for each charge in light of aggravating factors — such as preventing the victim from getting help — and mitigating circumstances, such as cooperating with the authorities. Subsequently, the court should decide which sentences to run consecutively, taking into account the duration and frequency of the abuse.

The High Court also set out indicative ranges corresponding to the degree of harm caused:

The defendants are currently on trial for abusing the Burmese domestic helper. The panel of three judges granted their application to remain being out on bail, till the trial is over later this year. They will serve their sentences after the other has completed his or her jail term, considering they have children to care for.

Chief Justice Menon also ordered the couple to pay compensation to the victim, but the amount will be decided subsequently. Solicitor-General Kwek Mean Luck has asked for a higher compensation sum from him, “given the duration of psychological harm” he had caused.

Our Criminal Lawyer, Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu, has defended numerous clients over the years over a wide variety of offences. With vast experience in Singapore’s laws, Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu will be able to provide valuable and timely advice for your situation. For more information, or if you have been caught in a similar situation, feel free to contact us for a consultation.

What Is Bail?

What is Bail?

You may have heard this word commonly used in relation to criminal offences. However, do you know what exactly is the definition of bail?

When is it granted? Who can issue it? What should you do if you happen to be a bailor?

First of all, it is important to note that failure to report to court or to the investigating officer may result in a Warrant of Arrest issued against a person on bail. The bail amount may also be forfeited and the bailor will have to show up in court too.

When is bail offered?

Bail may be offered by the police or any other law enforcement agencies. This is known as ‘police bail’ and it is usually offered after the initial arrest, but before the person is charged in court.

Here is what happens during an arrest.

After being charged in Court, the Court may offer a ‘court bail’, or extend the existing police bail until the next session of the case.

Bail is usually offered for most offences except those that are punishable with death, or life imprisonment.

At the State Courts, bail applications are processed by the Bail Centre at The Crime Registry located on the ground floor of the State Courts Building.

Additional restrictions

When a person is on bail, he or she will need to surrender his/her passport, and will not be allowed to leave the country unless they have obtained permission from the Court or the investigating officer. The bailor’s consent is required too.

How much will it usually be?

The amount, or quantum of bail to be offered will be determined by either the police or the Court. In Court, your lawyer, or even you may propose the bail amount while the other party may accept, or counter-propose a different amount. If both parties cannot reach a conclusion, the Court will hear arguments from both parties and make a decision on the amount.

This amount is determined by the seriousness of the offence; the character and financial means of the person; as well as a review of their past criminal record.

For non-serious offences, bail is usually less than S$15,000. If you are issued a court bail, you may appeal to the High Court to review the amount. For police bail, the decision is final.

What happens if you become a bailor?

The bailor’s main role is to ensure the person on bail surrenders to custody and is present for investigations and in Court. If at any point, you wish to withdraw as a bailor before the case has concluded, you will need to apply to either the police or the Court. If the case has already been mentioned in Court, the bailor will also need to appear in court to make an application to discharge himself/herself.

If the case runs smoothly, the bailor will be free from his or her duties once the case has concluded.

The case is concluded in one of these situations:

  • The police, or law enforcement agency has decided not to proceed with prosecution after investigations have been completed.
  • The Court has delivered the verdict. Regardless the decision, whether the person gets acquitted or convicted, the cash deposit or personal property used as bail will be returned to the bailor.

Our Criminal Lawyer, Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu, has defended numerous clients over the years over a wide variety of offences. With vast experience in Singapore’s laws, Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu will be able to provide valuable and timely advice for your situation and further advise you on the terms and conditions for bailors. For more information, or if you have been caught in a similar situation, feel free to contact us for a consultation.

How Does One Get Arrested?

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Amarjit Sidhu Law

An arrest is the process that begins when the police takes a suspect into custody. This process is complete when the suspect is no longer free to walk away from the arresting officer, mainly due to evidence and credible facts to support the alleged offence.

However, certain questions may arise from this definition.

What is an arrestable offence?
Can the police arrest someone without a warrant?
Can an arrest be made by a non-police officer?
What can the suspect do?
Will the suspect be informed of the reasons behind the arrest?
What happens after that?

Some of the more common arrestable offences include rape, voluntarily causing grievous hurt, theft, robbery and drug consumption. A police officer may arrest a suspect without a warrant if the person is suspected of being involved in an arrestable offence made on the grounds of credible information and definite facts.

If the offence is not an arrestable one, such as causing hurt, as opposed to grievous hurt, the police will first conduct an investigation after a report has been made. The decision will then be made on whether to obtain an arrest warrant against the suspect.

A person who has been arrested with a warrant must be produced in Court as soon as possible and depending on the offence, bail may be offered.

A person can also be arrested without a warrant for a non-arrestable offence if he or she refuses to provide his/her name and residential address upon request. However in this case, the person can only be detained in custody for a maximum of 48 hours.

What happens during the arrest?

The police must inform the suspect of the reasons behind the arrest. While there is no specific timeline for this process, the police can only hold the suspect for a maximum of 48 hours after the arrest. After this period has lapsed, the police will have to produce the suspect before a magistrate and make an application for further remand.

The process of an arrest can be broken down into the following components.

Detention: Upon arrest, the suspect will likely be searched and taken back to the police headquarters for further questioning. After that, the suspect may be remanded in a police lock-up for further investigations.

Any personal belongings will need to be surrendered to the police. These items will be logged and the suspect will be made to verify them. A copy of this log will also be given to the suspect.

The suspect may request to make a phone call to a family member. However, this request may be denied if the police determines it could interfere with investigations.

In some cases, the suspect may be released, placed on bail and called back for further investigations at a later time.

Take note that when a suspect is arrested, it does not mean the person is charged for the offence. This only happens after the suspect is formally charged by the Public Prosecutor in court before a trial can begin.

At this point, it is recommended that the suspect engage a solicitor who can help him/her better understand the situation, provide advice on statements and more importantly, make representations on the suspect’s behalf to help reduce the chances of being charged.

Further Investigations: Whilst in custody, the suspect will be interviewed with breaks in between. There are two types of statements that the police may take — a “long statement” which consists of answers that the suspect gives in response to questions; and a “cautioned statement”.

You have have seen crime dramas on TV where upon arrest, the police officer tells the suspect that they “have the right to remain silent, anything that they say may be used against them.” Whatever the suspect says after that, is a “cautioned statement”.

This is usually done when a suspect has been formally charged and is used as a last opportunity to reveal the facts and defences that he/she intends to rely on during the trial.

If the suspect admits to the crime at this point, then that statement will be classified as an admission.

The suspect may also be taken to the crime scene to recreate the events of the alleged offence. Blood may also be drawn for DNA samples, as well as fingerprints and a mugshot taken for identification purposes. The suspect may also be required to take a polygraph (lie-detector) test.

Do note that when the “long statement” is being recorded, the suspect need not say anything that may incriminate them. The statement will then be read back and given to the suspect for verification. It is important to look through it carefully, correct any discrepancies and then sign the relevant amendments as indicated by the police officer.

It is always good practise to record each moment down as much as possible, before seeing a lawyer. If the suspect does not understand English, a request can be made for an interpreter to help record and verify the statement.

What happens if one gets formally charged?

If the decision is made to charge the suspect, the investigating officer will arrange a meeting at the police station to read the charge, and to ask if the suspect admits to it.

Even if the suspect disagrees with the charge, signing the charge sheet does not mean admission. It just acknowledges that the suspect has read and understood the charges being brought against them.

Refusing to sign the charge will be recorded and may be presented to the court. The suspect will know if they are to get charged in court if the investigation officer either informs them of it, or requests that the suspect bring a bailor to the police station who will need to secure their attendance in court.

What happens after one gets released from the police station?

Investigations can take anywhere from a few days to years, depending on the complexity of the alleged offence. It is always advisable to fully cooperate with the police by providing all the information one may have either as a witness, defence or alibi. A lawyer can be engaged to prepare a letter of representation of these details on one’s behalf.

Once the investigating officer has gathered sufficient evidence, the police will then submit the results of the investigations to the Public Prosecutor who will make the final decision on whether to formally proceed with the prosecution.

Depending on the circumstances of the case, the Public Prosecutor may then exercise his/her discretion to either proceed with the prosecution or not, regardless of whether there is sufficient evidence.

Our Criminal Lawyer, Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu, has defended numerous clients over the years over a wide variety of offences. With vast experience in Singapore’s laws, Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu will be able to provide valuable and timely advice for your situation. For more information, or if you have been caught in a similar situation, feel free to contact us for a consultation.

What You Need To Know About Adultery Before Filing For Divorce


By definition, adultery refers to voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and another person who is not his or her spouse. In the context of filing for divorce from your spouse on the basis of adultery, there are a few things that you need to take note of.

There are two elements that need to be fulfilled. Firstly, there has to be proof that adultery has been committed and secondly, the plaintiff has to prove that this act has made it intolerable to live with the defendant.

So how does one prove adultery? And what are the options available to him/her to file for divorce on the grounds of adultery?

    • The most important question that needs to be asked is, was there sexual intercourse  between the defendant and the third party? Sexual intercourse in this case refers to penetration.
    • Was the sexual intercourse committed with a member of the opposite sex?

As long as sexual intercourse has been involved, it is adultery. However, if the defendant and third party had only remained intimate through text messages, phone calls or even physical contact but falling short of actual penetrative sex, then it cannot be defined as such although it could be used as indirect evidence to prove adultery.

Secondly, the definition of adultery in law only applies to the defendant and a third party of the opposite sex. This means that if the third party is of the same sex as the defendant, it’s not considered adultery and therefore, not the appropriate grounds to seek divorce.

Certain components need to be fulfilled for divorce to be filed on the basis of adultery.

    • Upon discovery of the adulterous relationship, the plaintiff must not continue living together with the defendant for six or more months. This means divorce proceedings must be made as soon as the plaintiff has confirmed suspicions that his/her spouse has committed adultery.
    • Both plaintiff and defendant have to be married for three or more years. However, in a case where they are married for a period much shorter than that, it is highly recommended to engage a specialist divorce lawyer to get further advice as there may be the possibility that the court might grant divorce even if the marriage hasn’t reached the three year mark.

Besides proving adultery, the plaintiff will also need to prove that he or she is unable to continue living with the defendant. To determine this, the court will need to consider if a reasonable person in the plaintiff’s position would find it intolerable to live with the defendant. Assessments will also be made by the court regarding the personalities and circumstances unique to the parties. To better understand what this means, speak to a specialist divorce lawyer who will advise you accordingly.

Once adultery is proven, the court may order the defendant to pay for the cost of the divorce proceedings and if a private investigator had been hired throughout this process, the court may order the defendant to pay for the private investigator’s fees too. However, this is up to the court’s discretion.

Our Criminal Lawyer, Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu, has defended numerous clients over the years over a wide variety of offences. With vast experience in Singapore’s laws, Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu will be able to provide valuable and timely advice for your situation. For more information, or if you have been caught in a similar situation, feel free to contact us for a consultation.

What Can I do if I’m Charged With Maid Abuse?

Maid Abuse

In March 2017, there was a high-profile case where a Singaporean couple was charged after they had been found guilty of abusing their maid. The victim was limited to two meals a day, consisting of instant noodles and bread resulting in her massive weight loss. The victim was also only allowed to shower once a week, with her employer, the wife, standing right in front of her in the bathroom.

The husband was sentenced to prison for three weeks and fined S$10,000 and his wife was imprisoned for three months.

Addressing The Problem

Maid abuse is something that has occurred in Singapore time and time again. One solution to deter this was set out in March 2018 when The Supreme Court laid out a new sentencing framework for perpetrators of maid abuse. This came after Chief Justice Sundresh Menon highlighted a need to review sentencing benchmarks for abuse cases to prevent repeat incidents.

The new framework requires an initial assessment of the level of abuse. Was it predominantly physical, or both physical and psychological?

Physical Abuse – Court Considers:
  • Degree of Harm
  • Aggravating Factors
  • Mitigating Factors
Physical + Psychological Abuse – Court Identifies:
  • Degree of Harm caused in relation to each charge

The table above summarises this new framework but to go deeper into details, here’s what this means in crime law.

What Constitutes Maid Abuse?

There are two different types of abuse – physical and psychological.

Physical abuse entails the acts of beating, slapping, kicking or performing acts that may cause physical injury to the victim. Do take note that even a light slap that does not injure the victim is still considered physical abuse, simply due to the intent to cause physical pain to the victim.

Psychological abuse lies on the other end of the spectrum where the victim is exposed to behaviour that leads to psychological trauma. Some examples of this include bullying, gaslighting, withholding and even body shaming. In the case mentioned above where the victim was denied a daily shower and only limited to two meals a day, those acts fall under psychological abuse.  

Assessing The Type of Abuse in Court

So how are these forms of maid abuse assessed in the Court?

Firstly, is the abuse predominantly physical or a combination of both?

If it’s predominantly physical, the next stage is to determine the degree of harm. Are there visible marks and scars? Was the victim hospitalised? Following that, the consideration of aggravating factors.

Aggravating factors are defined by the motivation of the act. Was it racially motivated? Was it an exploitation of the victim’s disability? Was there a weapon involved? An abuse of power, is also considered an aggravating factor.

Another consideration in criminal law is the mitigating factor. These are components that the criminal lawyer may argue for to justify the acts and possibly help in reducing the sentence. Some examples of mitigating factors include the mental state of the accused. Was the accused intoxicated? Was the accused experiencing a nervous breakdown? Was the act committed out of self-defense? If the accused is able to show remorse over the acts committed, it can be included as a mitigating factor.

To ensure a fair judgement, both aggravating and mitigating factors need to be carefully considered.

If the abuse is both physical and psychological, the court will identify the degree of harm in relation to each charge. For example, if the victim humiliated and degraded in front of others.

Once the Court has assessed all these factors, the next step is to determine the punishment.

The Punishment

For cases where there is less serious physical harm, or coupled with less serious psychological harm, the accused may be sentenced to three to six months in prison. However, if the case involves more serious psychological harm, the accused may be sentenced anywhere from six to 18 months in prison.

For cases where there is more serious physical harm, but with little or no psychological harm, the accused may be sentenced to six to 18 months in prison and if the acts involve both serious physical and psychological harm, the jail term may be anywhere between 20 to 30 months.

Our Criminal Lawyer, Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu, has defended numerous clients over the years over a wide variety of offences. With vast experience in Singapore’s laws, Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu will be able to provide valuable and timely advice for your situation. For more information, or if you have been caught in a similar situation, feel free to contact us for a consultation.

A Handy Guide on Common Expatriate Crimes in Singapore

Expat Laws in Singapore

Being an expatriate in Singapore can be a really enriching and rewarding experience for you. However, you should also be informed that Singapore has plenty of strict laws that you need to be aware of.

Here’s a quick and handy guide on common offences, how they are dealt with and what you should know before you hire a criminal lawyer.

Traffic Offences:
The reason why the roads in Singapore are relatively smooth is because of the country’s no-nonsense approach towards traffic offences. Drink driving for example, can result in a fine between S$1,000 to S$5,000, or a prison sentence of up to six months.

If you are caught using a mobile phone while driving, you can expect a fine of up to S$1000 and/or a prison sentence of up to six months.

Careless or reckless driving can result in a fine of up to S$3,000 and/or a prison sentence of 12 months. These are the punishments meted out by the Court just for the first offence.

Drug Offences:
Singapore has some of the toughest drug laws in the world and punishments can range anywhere from a fine to the death penalty. To be precise, if you are caught with unauthorised consumption and/or possession of drugs, the punishment could be up to ten years in prison and/or a fine of S$20,000.

However, trafficking, manufacturing, importing or exporting more than 15g of heroin; 30g of morphine; 30g of cocaine; 500g of cannabis; 200g of cannabis resin or 1.2kg of opium may result in the death penalty.  

Common Offences:
Some of the more common offences committed in Singapore include commercial sex with minors, theft and fraud. If caught having commercial sex with a minor below the age of 18, the punishment is a prison sentence of up to seven years and/or a fine.

General theft is punishable with a prison sentence of up to three years including a fine. Shoplifting, which is the act of stealing goods from a store can result in a jail term of up to seven years including a fine. Computer theft can lead to a fine of up to S$5000, and/or up to two years in prison, just for the first offence.

Forgery, or the submission of false documents can lead to a prison sentence of up to four years, including a fine.

You might also be aware of laws against public consumption of alcohol. Under this law, you are prohibited to buy or consume alcoholic beverages in public places from 10:30pm to 7:00am daily. At designated liquor control zones such as Little India and parts of Geylang, the prohibition period starts at 7:00am on Saturdays to 7:00 on Mondays. The punishment if you’re caught drinking illegally during these hours can be a S$1000 fine for the first offence, and up to S$20,000 for repeat offenders and/or a jail term of up to three months.

Serious Offences:
Punishments meted out for offences in Singapore are not limited to just jail terms or fines as the ones listed above. Caning is another mode of punishment that is dished out to offences that are classified as serious.

One common crime that’s treated very seriously here is illegal entry or overstaying your visa by more than 90 days. This can lead to a jail term of up to six months and up to three strokes of the cane. You can also be fined up to S$6,000.

Over the years, there have been instances of vandalism committed by expatriates or tourists in Singapore who were caught and severely punished in high-profile cases that were made known to the general public.

In 2010, a Swiss man was sentenced to five months in prison with three strokes of the cane after he was caught vandalising an MRT train.

Vandalism can result in a jail term of up to three years or a S$2,000 fine, and three to eight strokes of the cane.

The act of kidnapping can result in a jail term of up to ten years, including the possibility of a fine or caning. Robbery can lead to two to 14 years in jail, including a minimum of six strokes of the cane.

There are strict anti-gun laws in Singapore and barely any guns available here, besides those used by military, police and security forces. However, if you happen to be caught in unauthorised possession of a firearm, it will result in a jail sentence of between five to 14 years, including a minimum of 6 strokes of the cane.

Sex Offences:
For those of you who enjoy nightlife, do take note that Outrage of modesty, also known as molest can result in a jail term of up to two years and caning. Molest is one of the most common crimes involving expatriate men in Singapore and due to its tricky nature, and the circumstances leading to such accusations, can be quite an ordeal to deal with.

Rape is dealt with very harshly here, with a prison sentence of up to 20 years. You will also be liable to a fine or caning.

Death Penalty:
Besides the above mentioned drug offences, the other extremely serious crime that can result in the death penalty in Singapore is Murder.

What You Should Know
As an expatriate, it may be quite a handful to memorise the information above and you may or may not even be aware if you have committed a crime. But (touch wood), if you happen to be caught in a situation where you have been accused of committing one of these offences, what can you expect, and do?

Expect a Disruption To Your Life
If you are charged, or are being investigated for an offence by the police, you will be required to take urgent leave or attend compulsory interviews at the police station as part of the investigation process.

You could even be detained for up to 48 hours upon the initial arrest and you may not be allowed to contact a criminal lawyer or family member immediately, which could put your job at risk due to your absence from your duties.

What About Bail?:
If you are offered bail, you will only be allowed to find a Singaporean or a Permanent Resident who has the means to fulfil the amount, and who is willing to act as your bailor.

Travelling Rights:
If you are offered bail, you will have to surrender your passport and will be required to seek police or court permission before you can travel. You might also be required to agree to additional bail conditions such as furnishing your travel details and even a significant increase in the bail amount. In some cases, your application to travel will be refused entirely.

This means that if your job requires you to travel at short notice, you might not be able to fulfill that during this period.

Employment Status:
If your employment pass is due for renewal, being charged with an offence may affect the process. Instead, you may be issued with a temporary “special pass” which has to be renewed on a weekly or fortnightly basis. This will also mean regular visits to the police station and the Ministry of Manpower office for the renewal process. In some cases, you may also end up in a “blacklist” which will affect your future employment prospects in the country.

When Should I Inform my Employer?:
Do take note that unless the terms of your employment explicitly require you to do so, you don’t actually need to inform your employer of your circumstances as the results of the investigations could eventually mean you are innocent.

However, if you intend to plead guilty, you will likely need to inform your employer and may also wish to obtain a testimonial letter in support of your mitigation plea to ask the court for leniency in sentencing for the offence.

When Do I Engage a Criminal Lawyer?
It is always good practice to engage a criminal lawyer as soon as possible as your lawyer will help you better understand the nature of the charges and investigation, available defences, plea bargaining options and what to expect after trial and conviction.

Your lawyer will also be able to assist you in making representations to the police and prosecution in an attempt to help you secure a stern warning rather than being charged in Court for less serious offences.

What Happens Next?
You can be charged in Court only after investigations have been carried out.

This process consists of:

    • Investigation officer gathering sufficient evidence.
    • Submission of the results by the police to the Public Prosecutor
  • Public Prosecutor to make the final decision on whether to formally charge you and proceed with the prosecution.

This investigation is necessary to ensure that you are properly charged for the correct offence, if at all.

Who Are Empowered to Make Arrests?
It’s essential for you to know that besides the police, there are other enforcement agencies in Singapore that are empowered to make arrests and conduct investigations. They are:

    • Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) officers for drug-related offences.
    • Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) officers for white-collar crimes in the private and public sectors.
    • Immigration and Checkpoint Authority (ICA) officers for immigration offences.
    • Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) officers for money-laundering and offences linked to financing for terrorism
  • Any other officers who are given the power to investigate under the law. This also includes officers from Info-communications Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA) and the National Environment Agency (NEA).

If you are currently under investigation, do take note that some of the powers an Investigating Officer has includes being able to order a person to go to a police station, or other place for questioning and to take a statement from you; being allowed to search a place deemed relevant and linked to the offence as part of the investigation and seizing items and properties that can include your computer and mobile phone which may be used as important evidence for the case.

The offences and punishments mentioned in this article are just some of the more common offences that have been committed in Singapore. Do ensure you know your rights and give your full cooperation if you end up in any of these situations.

But more importantly, stay out of trouble and you will be able to fully enjoy the wonders of what Singapore can offer.

Our Criminal Lawyer, Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu, has defended numerous clients, both locals and expats over the years over a wide variety of offences. With vast experience in Singapore’s laws, Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu will be able to provide valuable and timely advice for your situation. For more information, or if you have been caught in a similar situation, feel free to contact us for a consultation.