DEPLORABLE CRIMINALS exist — attempted murderers and serious sexual abusers such as child rapists and serial rapists. Left to their own devices, these dangerous individuals are unsuited for life outside prison; release often simply means giving them the liberty to commit new atrocities. A list of some recent cases in Singapore is here. It is stomach-churning, especially the case involving the man who — within two short years of his prison release — sexually assaulted his two grandnieces.
Criminal Procedure (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill which our PAP MPs helped pass today (Feb 5) is here with its new Sentence for Enhanced Public Protection (SEPP) to keep these deplorables where they belong: Locked up and away from the community for a minimum of five to 20 years and afterwards until a board of experts and the Minister for Home Affairs assess that they are no longer a threat to public safety. Under the new regime, the court can decide if the sentencing should be under SEPP upfront for these selected serious crimes.
“With the normal prison sentences, these offenders go free after serving their prison terms. Even if there is an assessed risk that they might go out and do bad things,” said Minister for Law and Home Affairs K Shanmugam when he read the Bill out to Parliament, alongside Minister of State for Home Affairs Sun Xueling and Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Law Rahayu Mahzam.
“With the SEPP, there can be a more calibrated approach to better protect society. There will be an assessment, at the end of the minimum term, to see if it is safe to release such offenders,” added Minister Shanmugam.
So this is our Party wholeheartedly strengthening the legal system to make sure that appropriate punishments are meted out, as well as to protect Singaporeans — especially the most vulnerable — from serious crimes.
A balanced law, a calibrated safety tool
Our MPs naturally had questions about how exactly the SEPP would work. It is important that we find the right balance between society’s interests and an individual’s rights — and within the Singaporean context.
MPs Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) and Sharael Taha (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) asked about the resources for rehabilitating offenders on the SEPP.
“Prisoners sentenced to SEPP may not necessarily be segregated. They will be housed in line with prevailing prison policies. This will allow them to benefit from the very comprehensive suite of rehabilitative programs that are available to all inmates. These include work, religious and educational activities,” answered SPS Rahayu.
In a related vein, MP Ng and MP Gan Thiam Poh (Ang Mo Kio GRC) asked how exactly an offender would be discharged from the SEPP.
“Independent risk assessments by experts will play a role in this regime. …When conducting the assessments, the assessor can also interview the subjects and possibly their next-of-kin and this can be supplemented with relevant information from the agencies,” said SPS Rahayu.
SPS Rahayu also told the Opposition why the SEPP is better than a longer prison sentence. On one hand, offenders could be detained for longer than needed because the courts relied on an assessment done during sentencing. Conversely, offenders could remain dangerous after a long sentence.
“I will refer to the list of the case examples given earlier. Each victim is a serious, tragic situation. Under the present law, we must release such offenders unconditionally after they have served their sentence even if they still pose a danger to the public,” explained SPS Rahayu. SEPP is therefore a calibrated tool which considers an offender’s present circumstances when deciding whether to release or retain an offender.
Safe and sensitive forensic medical examinations
The Bill also lets the police conduct more efficient searches. Additionally, it lets the police require people accused of serious sexual crimes to take a forensic medical examination (FME). This is to obtain time-sensitive information such as DNA samples.
These FMEs will be conducted safely and sensitively.
“Before taking a body sample, the person conducting the FME must be satisfied that it will not endanger the subject. Only police officers holding the rank of inspector and above can require a FME involving intimate body parts. If the person undergoing FME involving intimate body parts is a lady, the forensics specialist or the police officer carrying out the FME must also be a lady,” detailed Minister Shanmugam.
Concurrently, victims of serious crime will only have their FME information taken without their consent in exceptional circumstances.
“The assessment of the victim’s ability to consent will be made by the police officer. Police may also consult relevant experts where appropriate. For example, when a potential victim of sexual assault is brought to the hospital unconscious, the police will generally take into account the assessment of the medical professionals treating the person — such as whether and when the person is likely to regain consciousness — before deciding,” assured SPS Rahayu when NMP Usha Chandradas and MP Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim (Chua Chu Kang GRC) asked about the confidentiality of the FME process.
All the House MPs passed the Bill. It is one more example of our Party taking the lead to protect Singaporeans. It stamps home the fact that in a PAP-governed Singapore, the punishment will fit the crime.