Penal Code (Singapore)

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Penal Code
Parliament House Singapore.jpg
An Act to consolidate the law relating to criminal offences.
CitationOrdinance No. 4 of 1871 (Straits Settlements); now Cap. 224, 2008 Rev. Ed.
Enacted byGovernor of the Straits Settlements with the advice and consent of the Legislative Council
Date enacted1871
Date commenced16 September 1872
Amendments
Penal Code (Amendment) Act 2007 (No. 51 of 2007)
 
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Penal Code
Parliament House Singapore.jpg
An Act to consolidate the law relating to criminal offences.
CitationOrdinance No. 4 of 1871 (Straits Settlements); now Cap. 224, 2008 Rev. Ed.
Enacted byGovernor of the Straits Settlements with the advice and consent of the Legislative Council
Date enacted1871
Date commenced16 September 1872
Amendments
Penal Code (Amendment) Act 2007 (No. 51 of 2007)

The Penal Code of Singapore[1] 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,[2] Kidnapping Act,[3] Misuse of Drugs Act[4] and Vandalism Act.[5]

History[edit]

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[6] 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,[citation needed] which came into effect on 31 August 1984, mandatory minimum penalties were introduced for certain offences.

Selected provisions[edit]

Handcuffs01 2003-06-02.jpg

The Penal Code has over 500 sections, and is divided into the following 24 chapters:

Chapter I: Preliminary.
Chapter II: General Explanations.
Chapter III: Punishments.
Chapter IV: General Exceptions.
Chapter V: Abetment.
Chapter VA: Criminal Conspiracy.
Chapter VI: Offences Against the State.
Chapter VIA: Piracy.
Chapter VII: Offences Relating to the Armed Forces.
Chapter VIII: Offences Against the Public Tranquillity.
Chapter IX: Offences By or Relating to Public Servants.
Chapter X: Contempts of the Authority of Public Servants.
Chapter XI: False Evidence and Offences Against Public Justice.
Chapter XII: Offences Relating to Coin and Government Stamps.
Chapter XIII: Offences Relating to Weights and Measures.
Chapter XIV: Offences Affecting the Public Health, Safety, Convenience, Decency and Morals.
Chapter XV: Offences Relating to Religion.
Chapter XVI: Offences Affecting the Human Body.
Offences Affecting Life.
Causing Miscarriage; Injuries to Unborn Children; Exposure of Infants; and Concealment of Births.
Hurt.
Wrongful Restraint and Wrongful Confinement.
Criminal Force and Assault.
Kidnapping, Abduction, Slavery and Forced Labour.
Rape.
Unnatural Offences.
Chapter XVII: Offences Affecting Property.
Theft.
Extortion.
Robbery and Gang-Robbery.
Criminal Misappropriation of Property.
Criminal Breach of Trust.
Receiving Stolen Property.
Cheating.
Fraudulent Deeds and Dispositions of Property.
Mischief.
Criminal Trespass.
Chapter XVIII: Offences Relating to Documents and to Currency Notes and Bank Notes.
Currency Notes and Bank Notes.
[There is no Chapter XIX.]
Chapter XX: Offences Relating to Marriage.
Chapter XXI: Defamation.
Chapter XXII: Criminal Intimidation, Insult and Annoyance.
Chapter XXIII: Attempts to Commit Offences.

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[edit]

An act does not constitute a criminal offence if any of the following general exceptions applies:

Intoxication is one of the general exceptions to a criminal offence in Singapore, but only applies in certain limited circumstances.
(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.[18]

Chapter V: Abetment[edit]

(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.[27]
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.[28]

Chapter VA: Criminal conspiracy[edit]

(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.[29] 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.[30] 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.[31]

Chapter VIA: Piracy[edit]

(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.[33]

Chapter VIII: Offences against the public tranquillity[edit]

(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.[34]
The punishment for being a member of an unlawful assembly is imprisonment of up to six months, or a fine, or both.[35]

Chapter XIV: Offences affecting the public health, safety, convenience, decency and morals[edit]

(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.[41] Thus, it is a criminal offence in Singapore to sell, hire out, circulate or possess pornography.

Chapter XVI: Offences affecting the human body[edit]

Offences affecting life[edit]

(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.[43]


(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.[44]
The penalty for committing murder is death.[45]
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.[46]
  • 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.[47]
  • 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.[48]
  • 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.[49]
  • 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.[50]
  • 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.[51]
  • 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.[52]
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.

Hurt[edit]

(a) emasculation;
(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.[58]
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".[59] The punishment for voluntarily causing grievous hurt is imprisonment of up to seven years, and also fine or caning.[60]

Criminal force and assault[edit]

Kidnapping, abduction, slavery and forced labour[edit]

Rape[edit]

(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.[75] The penalty for rape is imprisonment for up to 20 years, and also a fine or caning.[76] 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.[77] It should be noted that under the Women's Charter,[78] 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.[79] 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.)
(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).[80]
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.[81] A woman who commits incest shall be punished with imprisonment of up to five years.[82]

Outrages on decency[edit]

A common instance of theft: the bicycle frame to which this wheel belongs has been stolen.

Chapter XVII: Offences affecting property[edit]

Theft[edit]

Extortion[edit]

Robbery and gang-robbery[edit]

Criminal breach of trust[edit]

Cheating[edit]

Mischief[edit]

Criminal trespass[edit]

(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.[108]
The penalty for house-breaking is imprisonment of up to two years, and potentially also a fine.[109]

Chapter XX: Offences relating to marriage[edit]

Chapter XXI: Defamation[edit]

The punishment for defamation is imprisonment of up to two years, or with a fine, or both.[114]

Chapter XXII: Criminal intimidation, insult and annoyance[edit]

Chapter XXIII: Attempts to commit offences[edit]

Reform[edit]

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".[120] 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[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Cap. 224, 1985 Rev. Ed..
  2. ^ Cap. 14, 1998 Rev. Ed..
  3. ^ Cap. 151, 1999 Rev. Ed..
  4. ^ Cap. 185, 1998 Rev. Ed..
  5. ^ Cap. 341, 1985 Rev. Ed..
  6. ^ No. 4 of 1871 (S.S.).
  7. ^ Penal Code, op. cit., s. 76.
  8. ^ Id., ill. (b) to s. 76.
  9. ^ Id., s. 77.
  10. ^ Id., s. 78.
  11. ^ Id., s. 79.
  12. ^ Id., ill. to s. 79.
  13. ^ Id., s. 80.
  14. ^ Id., s. 81.
  15. ^ Id., s. 82.
  16. ^ Id., s. 83.
  17. ^ Id., s. 84.
  18. ^ Id., s. 85.
  19. ^ Id., s. 87.
  20. ^ Id., s. 88.
  21. ^ Id., s. 89.
  22. ^ Id., s. 92.
  23. ^ Id., s. 93.
  24. ^ Id., s. 94.
  25. ^ Id., s. 95.
  26. ^ Id., s. 96. The situations in which the exception applies are set out in ss. 96–106.
  27. ^ Id., s. 107.
  28. ^ Id., s. 109.
  29. ^ Id., s. 120A.
  30. ^ Id., s. 120B(1).
  31. ^ Id., s. 120B(2).
  32. ^ Id., s. 130C.
  33. ^ Id., s. 130D.
  34. ^ Id., s. 141.
  35. ^ Id., s. 143.
  36. ^ Id., s. 146.
  37. ^ Id., s. 147.
  38. ^ Id., s. 148.
  39. ^ Id., s. 159.
  40. ^ Id., s. 160.
  41. ^ Id., s. 292.
  42. ^ Id., s. 299.
  43. ^ Id., s. 304.
  44. ^ Id., s. 300.
  45. ^ Id., s. 302.
  46. ^ Id., Exception 1 to s. 300.
  47. ^ Id., Exception 2 to s. 300.
  48. ^ Id., Exception 3 to s. 300.
  49. ^ Id., Exception 4 to s. 300.
  50. ^ Id., Exception 5 to s. 300.
  51. ^ Id., Exception 6 to s. 300.
  52. ^ Id., Exception 7 to s. 300.
  53. ^ Id., s. 304A.
  54. ^ Id., s. 309.
  55. ^ Id., s. 319.
  56. ^ Id., s. 321.
  57. ^ Id., s. 323.
  58. ^ Id., s. 320.
  59. ^ Id., s. 322.
  60. ^ Id., s. 325. More serious grievous hurt offences are set out in ss. 326–333.
  61. ^ Use of force is defined in s. 349, id.
  62. ^ Id., s. 350.
  63. ^ Id., s. 352.
  64. ^ Id., s. 351.
  65. ^ Id., s. 352.
  66. ^ Id., s. 354.
  67. ^ Id., s. 354A(1).
  68. ^ Id., s. 354A(2).
  69. ^ Id., s. 359.
  70. ^ Id., s. 360.
  71. ^ Id., s. 361.
  72. ^ Id., s. 363.
  73. ^ Cap. 151, 1999 Rev. Ed..
  74. ^ Id., s. 3.
  75. ^ Penal Code, op. cit., s. 375.
  76. ^ Id., s. 376(1).
  77. ^ Id., s. 376(2).
  78. ^ Cap. 353, 1997 Rev. Ed..
  79. ^ Id., s. 140(1)(i).
  80. ^ Id., s. 376A.
  81. ^ Id., s. 376B.
  82. ^ Id., s. 376C.
  83. ^ Id., s. 375.
  84. ^ Id., s. 377A.
  85. ^ Id., s. 378.
  86. ^ Id., s. 379.
  87. ^ Id., s. 380. Other aggravated theft offences are set out in ss. 379A, 381 and 382.
  88. ^ Id., s. 383.
  89. ^ Id., s. 384. Aggravated extortion offences are set out in ss. 385–389.
  90. ^ Id., s. 390(1).
  91. ^ Id., s. 390(2).
  92. ^ Id., s. 390(3).
  93. ^ Id., s. 392.
  94. ^ Id., s. 391.
  95. ^ Id., s. 395.
  96. ^ Id., s. 405.
  97. ^ Id., ill. (b) to s. 405.
  98. ^ Id., s. 406. Aggravated criminal breach of trust offences are set out in ss. 407–409.
  99. ^ Id., s. 415.
  100. ^ Id., ill. (f) to s. 415.
  101. ^ Id., s. 417.
  102. ^ Id., s. 425.
  103. ^ Id., ill. (c) to s. 425.
  104. ^ Id., s. 426. Aggravated mischief offences are set out at ss. 427–440.
  105. ^ Id., s. 441.
  106. ^ Id., s. 447.
  107. ^ Id., s. 442.
  108. ^ Id., s. 445.
  109. ^ Id., s. 453.
  110. ^ Id., s. 494.
  111. ^ Id., s. 495.
  112. ^ Id., s. 499.
  113. ^ Id., Explanation 4 to s. 499.
  114. ^ Id., s. 500.
  115. ^ Id., s. 503.
  116. ^ Id., s. 506.
  117. ^ Id., s. 509.
  118. ^ Id., s. 510.
  119. ^ Id., s. 511.
  120. ^ Ministry of Home Affairs, Consultation Paper on the Proposed Penal Code Amendments (8 November 2006), para. 3.
  121. ^ Id., para. 6.
  122. ^ Id., para. 7.
  123. ^ Id., para. 8.
  124. ^ Id., para. 9.
  125. ^ Cap. 290, 1985 Rev. Ed..
  126. ^ Consultation Paper, op. cit., para. 10.
  127. ^ Id., para. 11.
  128. ^ Id., para. 12.
  129. ^ Cap. 353, 1997 Rev. Ed..
  130. ^ Consultation Paper, op. cit., para. 13.
  131. ^ Id., para. 14.
  132. ^ Ibid.

Further reading[edit]