The Penal Code of Singapore sets out general principles of the criminal law of Singapore, as well as the elements and penalties of common criminal offences such as homicide, theft and cheating. The Penal Code does not exhaustively define all the criminal offences applicable in Singapore – a large number of these are created by other statutes such as the Arms Offences Act, Kidnapping Act,Misuse of Drugs Act and Vandalism Act.
For most of the 19th century the criminal law which applied in the Straits Settlements (comprising Prince of Wales' Island (Penang), Singapore and Malacca) was that of the United Kingdom, insofar as local circumstances permitted. There was little doubt that at the time English common law crimes were recognized in these territories. However, due to problems such as doubts as to the applicability of Indian Acts, in 1871 the Straits Settlements Penal Code 1871 was enacted. It came into operation on 16 September 1872. The Code was practically a re-enactment of the Indian Penal Code.
Over the years, the Penal Code has been amended several times. In 1973 punishments for certain offences were enhanced, and by the Penal Code (Amendment) Act 1984, which came into effect on 31 August 1984, mandatory minimum penalties were introduced for certain offences.
The Penal Code has over 500 sections, and is divided into the following 24 chapters:
The Penal Code defines the elements of each offence and prescribes the maximum, and occasionally also the minimum, penalties for it. The basic form of an offence (commonly referred to as the 'simple offence' or, using Latin terminology, as the 'offence simpliciter') has the lowest penalties. More serious forms of the offence are defined as separate offences and attract stiffer penalties.
For instance, theft is defined in section 378 of the Code, and section 379 makes simple theft (or theft simpliciter) an offence punishable with imprisonment of up to three years or with fine or both. Section 379A punishes the theft of a motor vehicle or any component part of a motor vehicle with imprisonment of not less than one year and not more than seven years and a fine. Sections 380 and 381 respectively make it offences to commit theft in any building, tent or vessel which is used as a human dwelling or for the custody of property; and, while being a clerk or servant, or being employed in the capacity of a clerk or servant, to commit theft of any property in the possession of one's master or employer. In both cases the penalty is imprisonment of up to seven years and a fine. The most serious theft offence is that of committing theft, having made preparation for causing death or hurt or restraint, or fear of death or of hurt or of restraint, to any person in order to commit the theft, or in order to effect an escape after committing the theft, or in order to retain property taken by the theft. The maximum penalty is imprisonment for up to ten years and caning with not less than three strokes.
An offender is usually charged with the most serious offences that can be established on the facts of the case. On representations being made by the offender's lawyer to the prosecuting authority, the Prosecution may agree to charge the offender with lesser offences provided that he or she agrees to plead guilty to the reduced charges.
Some salient aspects of the Penal Code and commonly-encountered criminal offences are described in the sub-sections below.
Chapter IV: General exceptions
An act does not constitute a criminal offence if any of the following general exceptions applies:
Mistake of fact – If it is done by a person who is, or who by reason of a mistake of fact and not by reason of a mistake of law in good faith believes himself to be, bound by law to do it. For instance, A, an officer of a court of justice, being ordered by that court to arrest Y, and, after due enquiry, believing Z to be Y, arrests Z. A has committed no offence.
Judge acting judicially – If it is done by a judge when acting judicially in the exercise of any power which is, or which in good faith he believes to be, given to him by law.
Act done pursuant to judgment or order of court – If it is done in pursuance of, or which is warranted by the judgment or order of a court of justice, if done while the judgment or order remains in force, notwithstanding the court may have had no jurisdiction to pass the judgment or order, provided the person doing the act in good faith believes that the court had such jurisdiction.
Act justified by law, or believed to be justified by law by mistake of fact – If it is done by any person who is justified by law, or who by reason of a mistake of fact and not by reason of a mistake of law in good faith believes himself to be justified by law, in doing it. For example, A sees Z commit what appears to A to be a murder. A, in the exercise, to the best of his judgment exerted in good faith, of the power which the law gives to all persons of apprehending murderers in the act, seizes Z, in order to bring Z before the proper authorities. A has committed no offence, though it may turn out that Z was acting in self-defence.
Accident – If is done by accident or misfortune, and without any criminal intention or knowledge, in the doing of a lawful act in a lawful manner, by lawful means, and with proper care and caution.
Act done without criminal intent to prevent other harm – If, merely by reason of its being done with the knowledge that it is likely to cause harm, it is done without any criminal intention to cause harm, and in good faith for the purpose of preventing or avoiding other harm to person or property.
Act of a child under seven years – If it is done by a child under seven years of age.
Act of a child above seven and under 12 years who has not sufficient maturity of understanding – If it is done by a child above seven years of age and under 12, who has not attained sufficient maturity of understanding to judge of the nature and consequence of his conduct on that occasion.
Unsoundness of mind – If it is done by a person who, at the time of doing it, by reason of unsoundness of mind, is incapable of knowing the nature of the act, or that he is doing what is either wrong or contrary to law.
Intoxication is one of the general exceptions to a criminal offence in Singapore, but only applies in certain limited circumstances.
Intoxication – If by reason of intoxication the person charged at the time of the act or omission complained of did not know that such act or omission was wrong or did not know what he was doing and —
(a) the state of intoxication was caused without his consent by the malicious or negligent act of another person; or
(b) the person charged was, by reason of intoxication, insane, temporarily or otherwise, at the time of such act or omission.
If a person above 18 years of age has given consent, whether express or implied, to suffer harm or to take the risk of harm, provided that the act is not intended to cause death or grievous hurt, and is not known by the doer to be likely to cause death or grievous hurt.
If an act is done to a person for his benefit in good faith, and the person has given consent, whether express or implied, to suffer harm or to take the risk of harm, provided that the act is not intended to cause death.
If an act is done in good faith for the benefit of a person under 12 years of age, or of unsound mind, by or by consent, either express or implied, of the guardian or other person having lawful charge of that person.
Act done in good faith for benefit of person without consent – If an act is done to a person for his benefit in good faith, even without that person’s consent, if the circumstances are such that it is impossible for that person to signify consent, or if that person is incapable of giving consent, and has no guardian or other person in lawful charge of him from whom it is possible to obtain consent in time for the thing to be done with benefit.
Communication made in good faith – If it is a communication made in good faith for the benefit of a person.
Compulsion by threats – If it is done by a person who is compelled to do it by threats, which, at the time of doing it, reasonably cause the apprehension that instant death to that person will otherwise be the consequence. The exception does not apply to murder and offences against the State punishable with death.
Act causing slight harm – If it causes, or that it is intended to cause, or that it is known to be likely to cause, any harm, if that harm is so slight that no person of ordinary sense and temper would complain of such harm.
Private defence – If it is done in the exercise of the right of private defence.
Chapter V: Abetment
Abetment – A person abets the doing of a thing when he or she —
(a) instigates any person to do that thing;
(b) engages with one or more other person or persons in any conspiracy for the doing of that thing, if an act or illegal omission takes place in pursuance of that conspiracy, and in order to the doing of that thing; or
(c) intentionally aids, by any act or illegal omission, the doing of that thing.
Whoever abets any offence shall, if the act abetted is committed in consequence of the abetment, and no express provision is made by the Penal Code for the punishment of such abetment, be punished with the punishment provided for the offence.
Chapter VA: Criminal conspiracy
Criminal conspiracy – When two or more persons agree to do, or cause to be done —
(a) an illegal act; or
(b) an act, which is not illegal, by illegal means,
such an agreement is designated a criminal conspiracy. However, no agreement except an agreement to commit an offence shall amount to a criminal conspiracy unless some act besides the agreement is done by one or more parties to such agreement in pursuance thereof. Whoever is a party to a criminal conspiracy to commit an offence punishable with death or imprisonment of up to two years or upwards shall, where no express provision is made in the Penal Code for the punishment of such a conspiracy, be punished in the same manner as if he or she had abetted such offence. If the criminal conspiracy is to commit any other offence, the punishment is imprisonment of up to six months, or with a fine, or with both.
Chapter VIA: Piracy
Piracy – A person commits piracy who does any act that, by the law of nations, is piracy. Whoever commits piracy shall be punished with imprisonment for life and with caning with not less than 12 strokes, but if while committing or attempting to commit piracy he or she murders or attempts to murder another person or does any act that is likely to endanger the life of another person he or she shall be punished with death.
Piratical acts – Whoever, while in or out of Singapore —
(a) steals a Singapore ship;
(b) steals or without lawful authority throws overboard, damages or destroys anything that is part of the cargo, supplies or fittings in a Singapore ship;
(c) does or attempts to do a mutinous act on a Singapore ship; or
(d) counsels or procures a person to do anything mentioned in paragraph (a), (b) or (c),
shall be punished with imprisonment of up to ten years and shall be liable to caning.
Chapter VIII: Offences against the public tranquillity
Unlawful assembly – An assembly of five or more persons is an "unlawful assembly" if the common object of the persons composing that assembly is —
(a) to overawe by criminal force, or show of criminal force, the Legislative or Executive Government, or any public servant in the exercise of the lawful power of such public servant;
(b) to resist the execution of any law, or of any legal process;
(c) to commit any mischief or criminal trespass, or other offence;
(d) by means of criminal force, or show of criminal force, to any person, to take or obtain possession of any property, or to deprive any person of the enjoyment of a right of way, or of the use of water or other incorporeal right of which he is in possession or enjoyment, or to enforce any right or supposed right; or
(e) by means of criminal force, or show of criminal force, to compel any person to do what he is not legally bound to do, or to omit to do what he is legally entitled to do.
The punishment for being a member of an unlawful assembly is imprisonment of up to six months, or a fine, or both.
Rioting – The offence of rioting is committed whenever force or violence is used by an unlawful assembly or by any member thereof, in prosecution of the common object of the assembly. The punishment for rioting is imprisonment of up to five years and caning, or imprisonment of up to seven years and caning if a person is found rioting while armed with a deadly weapon.
Affray – An affray is committed when two or more persons fight in a public place and disturb the public peace. The punishment for affray is imprisonment of up to one year, or a fine of up to S$1,000, or both.
Chapter XIV: Offences affecting the public health, safety, convenience, decency and morals
Sale of obscene books, etc. – Whoever —
(a) sells, lets to hire, distributes, publicly exhibits or in any manner puts into circulation, or for purposes of sale, hire, distribution, public exhibition or circulation, makes, produces, or has in his possession any obscene book, pamphlet, paper, drawing, painting, representation or figure, or any other obscene object whatsoever;
(b) imports, exports or conveys any obscene object for any of the purposes aforesaid, or knowing or having reason to believe that such object will be sold, let to hire, distributed or publicly exhibited, or in any manner put into circulation;
(c) takes part in, or receives profits from, any business in the course of which he knows or has reason to believe that any such obscene objects are, for any of the purposes aforesaid, made, produced, purchased, kept, imported, exported, conveyed, publicly exhibited, or in any manner put into circulation;
(d) advertises, or makes known by any means whatsoever, that any person is engaged or is ready to engage in any act which is an offence under this section, or that any such obscene object can be procured from or through any person; or
(e) offers or attempts to do any act which is an offence under this section,
shall be punished with imprisonment of up to three months, or a fine, or both. Thus, it is a criminal offence in Singapore to sell, hire out, circulate or possess pornography.
Chapter XVI: Offences affecting the human body
Offences affecting life
Culpable homicide – The offence of culpable homicide is committed when a person causes death by doing an act with the intention of causing death, or with the intention of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, or with the knowledge that he or she is likely by such act to cause death. Where a decision is made by the Public Prosecutor not to charge a person with murder, a common alternative charge is 'culpable homicide not amounting to murder'. This is frequently called 'manslaughter' by the media, which is inaccurate as the term does not appear in the Penal Code and is different from the English common law offence of manslaughter. The penalty for culpable homicide not amounting to murder is:
(a) life imprisonment, or imprisonment of up to ten years, and a fine or caning, if the act by which death is caused is done with the intention of causing death, or of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death; or
(b) imprisonment of up to ten years, or with fine, or both, if the act is done with the knowledge that it is likely to cause death, but without any intention to cause death, or to cause such bodily injury as is likely to cause death.
Murder – Except in the cases set out below, culpable homicide amounts to murder —
(a) if the act by which the death is caused is done with the intention of causing death;
(b) if it is done with the intention of causing such bodily injury as the offender knows to be likely to cause the death of the person to whom the harm is caused;
(c) if it is done with the intention of causing bodily injury to any person, and the bodily injury intended to be inflicted is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death; or
(d) if the person committing the act knows that it is so imminently dangerous that it must in all probability cause death, or such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, and commits such act without any excuse for incurring the risk of causing death, or such injury as aforesaid.
Culpable homicide does not amount to murder in the following seven cases:
Grave and sudden provocation – Culpable homicide is not murder if the offender, whilst deprived of the power of self-control by grave and sudden provocation, causes the death of the person who gave the provocation, or causes the death of any other person by mistake or accident. The exception only applies if (a) the provocation was not sought or voluntarily provoked by the offender as an excuse for killing or doing harm to any person; (b) the provocation was not given by anything done in obedience to the law, or by a public servant in the lawful exercise of the powers of such public servant; or (c) the provocation was not given by anything done in the lawful exercise of the right of private defence.
Private defence – Culpable homicide is not murder if the offender, in the exercise in good faith of the right of private defence of person or property, exceeds the power given to him by law, and causes the death of the person against whom he is exercising such right of defence, without premeditation and without any intention of doing more harm than is necessary for the purpose of such defence.
Public servant discharging duty – Culpable homicide is not murder if the offender, being a public servant, or aiding a public servant acting for the advancement of public justice, exceeds the powers given to him by law, and causes death by doing an act which he, in good faith, believes to be lawful and necessary for the due discharge of his duty as such public servant, and without ill-will towards the person whose death is caused.
Sudden fight – Culpable homicide is not murder if it is committed without premeditation in a sudden fight in the heat of passion upon a sudden quarrel, and without the offender having taken undue advantage or acted in a cruel or unusual manner.
Consent – Culpable homicide is not murder when the person whose death is caused, being above the age of 18 years, suffers death or takes the risk of death with his own consent.
Woman suffering post-natal depression causing homicide of her child – Culpable homicide is not murder if the offender being a woman voluntarily causes the death of her child being a child under the age of 12 months, and at the time of the offence the balance of her mind was disturbed by reason of her not having fully recovered from the effect of giving birth to the child or by reason of the effect of lactation consequent upon the birth of the child.
Abnormality of mind – Culpable homicide is not murder if the offender was suffering from such abnormality of mind (whether arising from a condition of arrested or retarded development of mind or any inherent causes or induced by disease or injury) as substantially impaired his mental responsibility for his acts and omissions in causing the death or being a party to causing the death.
The above are sometimes called partial defences to murder, since they do not excuse the offender from the offence of murder entirely but merely reduce it to the offence of culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
Causing death by rash or negligent act – Whoever causes the death of any person by doing any rash or negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide, shall be punished with imprisonment of up to two years, or a fine, or both. The relevant section of the Penal Code creates two separate offences: causing death by a rash act, and causing death by a negligent act, the former being the more serious offence. Persons who cause deaths in the course of traffic accidents are often charged with one of these offences.
Attempt to commit suicide – Whoever attempts to commit suicide, and does any act towards the commission of such offence, shall be punished with imprisonment for up to one year, or a fine, or both.
Voluntarily causing hurt – A person causes hurt when he or she causes bodily pain, disease or infirmity to any person. Whoever does any act with the intention of causing hurt to any person, or with the knowledge that he is likely to cause hurt to any person, and does cause hurt to any person, voluntarily causes hurt. The penalty for voluntarily causing hurt is imprisonment of up to one year, or a fine of up to S$1,000, or both.
Voluntarily causing grievous hurt – The following kinds of hurt only are designated as "grievous":
(b) permanent privation of the sight of either eye;
(c) permanent privation of the hearing of either ear;
(d) privation of any member or joint;
(e) destruction or permanent impairing of the powers of any member or joint;
(f) permanent disfiguration of the head or face;
(g) fracture or dislocation of a bone;
(h) any hurt which endangers life, or which causes the sufferer to be, during the space of 20 days, in severe bodily pain, or unable to follow his ordinary pursuits.
Whoever voluntarily causes hurt, if the hurt which he intends to cause or knows himself to be likely to cause is grievous hurt, and if the hurt which he causes is grievous hurt, is said "voluntarily to cause grievous hurt". The punishment for voluntarily causing grievous hurt is imprisonment of up to seven years, and also fine or caning.
Criminal force and assault
Criminal force – A person uses criminal force to another person when he or she intentionally uses force to the other person, without that person’s consent, in order to cause the committing of any offence, or intending by the use of such force illegally to cause, or knowing it to be likely that by the use of such force he will illegally cause injury, fear or annoyance to the person to whom the force is used. The penalty for using criminal force to another person is imprisonment for up to three months, or a fine of up to S$500, or both.
Assault – Whoever makes any gesture or any preparation, intending or knowing it to be likely that such gesture or preparation will cause any person present to apprehend that he who makes that gesture or preparation is about to use criminal force to that person, is said to commit an assault. The penalty for assault is the same as that for using criminal force.
Assault or use of criminal force with intent to outrage modesty – Whoever assaults or uses criminal force to any person, intending to outrage or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby outrage the modesty of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment for up to two years, or a fine, or caning, or any two of such punishments. This offence is sometimes inaccurately termed 'molest' by the media. If, in order to commit or to facilitate the commission of the offence, a person voluntarily causes or attempts to cause to that person death, or hurt, or wrongful restraint, or fear of instant death, instant hurt or instant wrongful restraint, the punishment is imprisonment of not less than two years and not more than ten years with caning. If the offence is committed in a lift in any building, or against any person under 14 years of age, the punishment is imprisonment for not less than three years and not more than ten years and caning.
Kidnapping, abduction, slavery and forced labour
Kidnapping – There are two kinds of kidnapping: kidnapping from Singapore, and kidnapping from lawful guardianship. A person is kidnapped from Singapore when he or she is conveyed beyond the limits of Singapore without his or her consent or the consent of some person legally authorised to consent on behalf of that person. Whoever takes or entices any minor under 14 years of age if a male, or under 16 years of age if a female, or any person of unsound mind, out of the keeping of the lawful guardian of such minor or person of unsound mind, without the consent of such guardian, is said to kidnap such minor or person from lawful guardianship. The punishment for kidnapping from Singapore or kidnapping from lawful guardianship is imprisonment for up to ten years, and a fine or caning. It may be noted that under the Kidnapping Act, it is an offence to abduct or wrongfully restrain or wrongfully confine a person with intent to hold that person for ransom. The penalty is death or imprisonment for life; if the offender is not sentenced to death, he or she is also liable to caning.
Rape – A man commits "rape" when he has sexual intercourse with a woman under circumstances falling under any of the five following descriptions:
(a) against her will;
(b) without her consent;
(c) with her consent, when her consent has been obtained by putting her in fear of death or hurt;
(d) with her consent, when the man knows that he is not her husband, and her consent is given because she believes that he is another man to whom she is or believes herself to be lawfully married or to whom she would consent;
(e) with or without her consent, when she is under 14 years of age.
However, sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under 13 years of age, is not rape. The penalty for rape is imprisonment for up to 20 years, and also a fine or caning. Where a man, in order to commit or to facilitate the commission of an offence of rape, voluntarily causes hurt to a woman or to any other person, or puts the woman in fear of death or hurt to herself or any other person, he shall be punished with imprisonment for not less than eight years and not more than 20 years and shall also be punished with not less than 12 strokes of the cane. The same penalty applies to the commission of rape by having sexual intercourse with a woman under 14 years of age without her consent. It should be noted that under the Women's Charter, any person who has carnal connection with any girl below the age of 16 years except by way of marriage is guilty of an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment of up to five years and a fine not exceeding S$10,000. As this offence raises the age of consent for females from 14 to 16 years, cases of underage sex are usually charged under the Women's Charter rather than the Penal Code. (The offence is often called 'statutory rape', although this is a term used in U.S. law.)
Incest – Incest is committed when —
(a) any man has carnal knowledge of a woman with or without her consent who is to his knowledge his grand-daughter, daughter, sister, half-sister or mother (whether such relationship is or is not traced through lawful wedlock); or
(b) any woman of or above the age of 16 who with consent permits her grandfather, father, brother, half-brother or son (whether such relationship is or is not traced through lawful wedlock) to have carnal knowledge of her (knowing him to be her grandfather, father, brother, half-brother or son, as the case may be).
A man who commits incest shall be punished with imprisonment of up to five years, and if the woman is found to be under 14 years the offender shall be punished with imprisonment of up to 14 years. A woman who commits incest shall be punished with imprisonment of up to five years.
Male on Male rape – According to Singapore law male on male rape is not acknowledged—more specifically a man cannot be a victim of rape as rape is narrowly defined under S375, Penal Code as the penile penetration of a vagina.
Outrages on decency – Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or abets the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be punished with imprisonment for up to two years.
A common instance of theft: the bicycle frame to which this wheel belongs has been stolen.
Chapter XVII: Offences affecting property
Theft – Theft is committed when a person, intending to take dishonestly any movable property out of the possession of any person without that person’s consent, moves that property in order to effect the taking. The penalty for theft is imprisonment of up to three years, or a fine, or both. It is more common, however, for offenders to be charged with committing theft in a building, tent or vessel, which is used as a human dwelling, or for the custody of property. The penalty for this more serious offence is imprisonment of up to seven years, and also a fine.
Extortion – Whoever intentionally puts any person in fear of any injury to that person or to any other, and thereby dishonestly induces the person so put in fear to deliver to any person any property or valuable security, or anything signed or sealed which may be converted into a valuable security, commits "extortion". Whoever commits extortion shall be punished with imprisonment for not less than two years and not more than seven years, and caning.
Robbery and gang-robbery
Robbery – Robbery is a species of either theft or extortion. Theft is robbery if, in order to commit theft, or in committing the theft, or in carrying away or attempting to carry away property obtained by the theft, the offender, for that end, voluntarily causes or attempts to cause to any person death, or hurt, or wrongful restraint, or fear of instant death, or of instant hurt, or of instant wrongful restraint. Extortion is robbery if the offender, at the time of committing the extortion, is in the presence of the person put in fear, and commits the extortion by putting that person in fear of instant death, of instant hurt, or of instant wrongful restraint to that person or to some other person, and, by so putting in fear, induces the person so put in fear then and there to deliver up the thing extorted. The penalty for robbery is imprisonment for not less than two years and not more than ten years, and caning of not less than six strokes; if the robbery is committed after 7:00 p.m. and before 7:00 a.m. the offender shall be punished with imprisonment of not less than three years and not more than 14 years, and also caning with not less than 12 strokes.
Gang-robbery – Gang-robbery is committed when five or more persons conjointly commit or attempt to commit a robbery, or where the whole number of persons conjointly committing or attempting to commit a robbery, and of persons present and aiding such commission or attempt, amount to five or more. The penalty for gang-robbery is imprisonment for not less than five years and not more than 20 years, and also caning with not less than 12 strokes.
Criminal breach of trust
Criminal breach of trust – Criminal breach of trust is committed by a person who, being in any manner entrusted with property, or with any dominion over property, dishonestly misappropriates or converts to his or her own use that property, or dishonestly uses or disposes of that property in violation of any direction of law prescribing the mode in which such trust is to be discharged, or of any legal contract, express or implied, which he or she has made touching the discharge of such trust, or wilfully suffers any other person to do so. For instance, A, a warehouse-keeper, commits breach of trust if he dishonestly sells furniture belonging to Z who, intending to go on a journey, has entrusted the goods to A under a contract that it shall be returned on payment of a stipulated sum for warehouse room. The penalty is imprisonment for up to three years, or a fine, or both.
Simple Cheating – Under the Singapore Penal Code, Chapter 224, section 417. Whoever, by deceiving any person, fraudulently or dishonestly induces the person so deceived to deliver any property to any person, or to consent that any person shall retain any property, or intentionally induces the person so deceived to do or omit to do anything which he or she would not do or omit if he or she were not so deceived, and which act or omission causes or is likely to cause damage or harm to that person in body, mind, reputation or property, is said to "cheat". For example, A cheats if he intentionally deceives Z into a belief that A means to repay any money that Z may lend to him when A does not intend to repay it, and thereby dishonestly induces Z to lend him money. Cheating is punished with imprisonment of up to one year, or a fine, or both.
Aggravated Cheating - is punishable under the Singapore Penal Code Chapter 224, Section 420 with imprisonment for a term of up to 7 years, and the offender is also liable to fine. Imprisonment is mandatory.
Mischief – Mischief is committed by a person who, with intent to cause, or knowing that he or she is likely to cause, wrongful loss or damage to the public or any person, causes the destruction of any property, or any such change in any property, or in the situation thereof, as destroys or diminishes its value or utility, or affects it injuriously. For instance, A commits mischief if he voluntarily throws into a river a ring belonging to Z, with the intention of thereby causing wrongful loss to Z. The penalty for mischief is imprisonment of up to three months, or a fine, or both.
Criminal trespass – Whoever enters into or upon property in the possession of another with intent to commit an offence or to intimidate, insult or annoy any person in possession of such property, or having lawfully entered into or upon such property, unlawfully remains there with intent thereby to intimidate, insult or annoy any such person, or with intent to commit an offence, is said to commit "criminal trespass". The penalty is imprisonment of up to three months, or with a fine of up to S$500, or both.
House-breaking – "House-trespass" is committed by a person who commits criminal trespass by entering into, or remaining in, any building, tent or vessel used as a human dwelling, or any building used as a place for worship or as a place for the custody of property. A person is said to commit "house-breaking" if he or she commits house-trespass by effecting his or her entrance into the house or any part of it in any of the six ways hereinafter described; or if, being in the house or any part of it for the purpose of committing an offence, or having committed an offence therein, he or she quits the house or any part of it in any of such six ways:
(a) if he or she enters or quits through a passage made by himself or herself, or by any abettor of the house-trespass, in order to the committing of the house-trespass;
(b) if he or she enters or quits through any passage not intended by any person, other than himself or herself or an abettor of the offence, for human entrance; or through any passage to which he or she has obtained access by scaling or climbing over any wall or building;
(c) if he or she enters or quits through any passage which he or she or any abettor of the house-trespass has opened, in order to the committing of the house-trespass, by any means by which that passage was not intended by the occupier of the house to be opened;
(d) if he or she enters or quits by opening any lock in order to the committing of the house-trespass, or in order to the quitting of the house after a house-trespass;
(e) if he or she effects his or her entrance or departure by using criminal force or committing an assault, or by threatening any person with assault;
(f) if he or she enters or quits by any passage which he or she knows to have been fastened against such entrance or departure, and to have been unfastened by himself or herself or by an abettor of the house-trespass.
The penalty for house-breaking is imprisonment of up to two years, and potentially also a fine.
Chapter XX: Offences relating to marriage
Marrying again during the lifetime of husband or wife – Whoever, having a husband or wife living, marries in any case in which such marriage is void by reason of its taking place during the life of such husband or wife, shall be punished with imprisonment of up to seven years, and shall also be liable to a fine. If a person commits the offence having concealed from the person with whom the subsequent marriage is contracted the fact of the former marriage, he or she shall be punished with imprisonment of up to ten years, and shall also be liable to a fine.
Note: The Administration of Muslim Law Act, Part VI (Marriage and Divorce), allows polygamy for Muslim men.
Chapter XXI: Defamation
Defamation – A person criminally defames another person when he or she, by words either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs, or by visible representations, makes or publishes any imputation concerning the other person, intending to harm, or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation will harm, the reputation of such person. An imputation harms a person’s reputation if it directly or indirectly, in the estimation of others, lowers the moral or intellectual character of that person, or lowers the character of that person in respect of his or her caste or calling, or lowers the credit of that person, or causes it to be believed that the body of that person is in a loathsome state, or in a state generally considered as disgraceful. There are ten exceptions to the offence:
Imputation of any truth which the public good requires to be made or published – It is not defamation to impute anything which is true concerning any person, if it is for the public good that the imputation should be made or published.
Public conduct of public servants – It is not defamation to express in good faith any opinion whatever respecting the conduct of any person touching any discharge of his or her public functions, or respecting his or her character, so far as his or her character appears in that conduct, and no further.
Conduct of any person touching any public question – It is not defamation to express in good faith any opinion whatever respecting the conduct of any person touching any public question, and respecting his or her character, so far as his or her character appears in that conduct, and no further.
Publication of reports of proceedings of courts of justice, etc. – It is not defamation to publish a substantially true report of the proceedings of a court of justice, or of Parliament, or of the result of any such proceedings.
Merits of case decided in a court of justice; or conduct of witnesses and others concerned therein – It is not defamation to express in good faith any opinion whatever respecting the merits of any case, civil or criminal, which has been decided by a court of justice, or respecting the conduct of any person as a party, witness or agent, in any such case, or respecting the character of such person, as far as his or her character appears in that conduct, and no further.
Merits of a public performance – It is not defamation to express in good faith any opinion respecting the merits of any performance which its author has submitted to the judgment of the public, or respecting the character of the author so far as his or her character appears in such performance, and no further.
Censure passed in good faith by a person having lawful authority over another – It is not defamation in a person having over another any authority, either conferred by law, or arising out of a lawful contract made with that other, to pass in good faith any censure on the conduct of that other in matters to which such lawful authority relates.
Accusation preferred in good faith to a duly authorised person – It is not defamation to prefer in good faith an accusation against any person to any of those who have lawful authority over that person with respect to the subject-matter of the accusation.
Imputation made in good faith by a person for the protection of his or her interests – It is not defamation to make an imputation on the character of another, provided that the imputation is made in good faith for the protection of the interests of the person making it, or of any other person, or for the public good.
Caution intended for the good of the person to whom it is conveyed or for the public good – It is not defamation to convey a caution, in good faith, to one person against another, provided that the caution is intended for the good of the person to whom it is conveyed, or of some person in whom that person is interested, or for the public good.
The punishment for defamation is imprisonment of up to two years, or with a fine, or both.
Chapter XXII: Criminal intimidation, insult and annoyance
Criminal intimidation – Whoever threatens another with any injury to his or her person, reputation or property, or to the person or reputation of any one in whom that person is interested, with intent to cause alarm to that person, or to cause that person to do any act which he or she is not legally bound to do, or to omit to do any act which that person is legally entitled to do, as the means of avoiding the execution of such threat, commits criminal intimidation. The penalty is imprisonment of up to two years, or with a fine, or with both. If the threat is to cause death or grievous hurt, or to cause the destruction of any property by fire, or to cause an offence punishable with death or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years or more, or impute unchastity to a woman, the punishment is imprisonment of up to ten(10) years, or with a fine, or with both.
Word or gesture intended to insult the modesty of a woman – Whoever, intending to insult the modesty of any woman, utters any word, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen by such woman, or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman, shall be punished with imprisonment of up to one year, or with a fine, or with both.
Misconduct in public by a drunken person – Whoever, in a state of intoxication, appears in any public place, or in any place which it is a trespass in him or her to enter, and there conducts himself or herself in such a manner as to cause annoyance to any person, shall be punished with imprisonment of up to ten days, or with a fine which may extend to S$10, or with both.
Chapter XXIII: Attempts to commit offences
Punishment for attempting to commit offences – Whoever attempts to commit an offence punishable by the Penal Code or by any other written law with imprisonment or fine or with a combination of such punishments, or attempts to cause such an offence to be committed, and in such attempt does any act towards the commission of the offence, shall, where no express provision is made by the Code or by such other written law, as the case may be, for the punishment of such attempt, be punished with such punishment as is provided for the offence. However, any term of imprisonment imposed shall not exceed one-half of the longest term provided for the offence.
In 2006, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), in consultation with the Attorney-General's Chambers, Ministry of Law and other agencies, conducted an extensive review of the Penal Code in order to bring it "up to date, and make it more effective in maintaining a safe and secure society in today's context". Between 9 November and 9 December 2006, the MHA held a public consultation on proposed changes to the Code.
Among the proposed amendments are the ones set out below.
Expansion and modification of the scope of existing offences
Offences committed via electronic medium – The scope of certain sections will be expanded to cover offences committed via an electronic medium, including s. 292 (sale of obscene books. etc.), s. 298 (uttering words, etc., with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person), s. 499 (defamation) and s. 505 (statements conducing to public mischief).
Cheating – Section 415, which defines the offence of cheating, will be amended to make clear that (a) the offence is committed whether or not deception was the sole or main inducement; (b) it extends to cover damage or harm to any person instead of only to the person deceived; and (c) any representation made through an agent will be treated as having been made by the person himself or herself.
Unlawful assembly – Section 141 will be amended so that an unlawful assembly is an assembly of five or more people whose common object is to commit any offence, and not just an offence relating to public tranquillity.
New offence of uttering words, etc., with deliberate intent to wound racial feelings – Section 298, which creates the offence of uttering words, etc., with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person, will be expanded to cover the wounding of racial feelings as well. This is to provide the Public Prosecutor with the option of charging offenders under the Penal Code instead of only the Sedition Act.
Decriminalization of anal and oral sex in certain circumstances; bestiality – Section 377 (carnal intercourse against the order of nature) will be repealed and re-enacted in a modified form, such that anal and oral sex, if done in private between a consulting heterosexual couple aged 16 years old and above, will no longer be criminal offences. The offence of bestiality, also currently covered by s. 377, will be expanded to cover the scenario where a person is compelled by another person to perform bestiality without his or her consent. The new s 377 will be replaced by omitting "unnatural sex" to be replaced by "Sex with a corpse" or dead bodies which will be outlawed.
Incest – The offence of incest created by ss. 376A, 376B and 376C will be expanded to (a) cover other sexual acts involving penetration, in addition to sexual intercourse; (b) cover penetrative sexual acts between a grandmother and her grandson; and (c) provide that a boy under 16 years cannot be prosecuted for incest (as currently provided for females under 16 years) as they are not mature enough to make an informed decision.
Rape – The offence of rape (s. 375) will be amended to cover persons who have undergone sex reassignment surgery, and to define sexual intercourse to include acts involving a surgically constructed penis or vagina that is integrated into the body of a person.
Removal of marital immunity for rape – Given the changed status of women and the evolving nature of the marital relationship, a husband's immunity against raping his wife will be withdrawn if, at the time of the offence, (a) the wife was living separately from him under a judgment of judicial separation or an interim judgment of divorce not yet made final; (b) there was in force an injunction restraining him from having sexual intercourse with his wife; or (c) there was in force a protection order under s. 65 or an expedited order under s. 66 of the Women's Charter made against him pursuant to an application by his wife.
Enhanced penalties for outraging modesty of minor under 14 years – The penalties for outraging the modesty of a minor under 14 years under s. 354 will be enhanced.
Increase in age restriction for selling, etc., obscene object to minor – The age restriction under s. 293, which makes it an offence for any person to sell, hire, distribute, exhibit or circulate any obscene object to any person under 20 years, will be increased to 21 years in line with the Restricted 21 (R21) classification for films.
Chan, Wing Cheong; Andrew Phang (2001). The Development of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice in Singapore. Singapore: Singapore Journal of Legal Studies, Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore. ISBN981-04-3720-X.
Chan, Wing Cheong; Michael Hor Yew Meng & Victor V. (Vridar) Ramraj (2005). Fundamental Principles of Criminal Law : Cases and Materials. Singapore: LexisNexis. ISBN981-236-409-9.Cite uses deprecated parameters (help)