Many of us may have had this thought – what if something happened to me, or someone that I know but for some reason, we kept quiet about it back then? Can we still file a report about it right now – even if years have passed?
In Singapore, unlike some foreign jurisdictions, there is no limitation period for criminal offences. This is attributed to the nature and seriousness of criminal offences, and meant to ensure that offenders do not get away with criminal conduct simply because they managed to evade the law for a long time.
This means, regardless of how long ago the incident had occurred, you are technically free to lodge a report and the relevant authorities may investigate your report and take necessary action if there is sufficient evidence.
The Public Prosecutor is also free to bring criminal charges against a person at any time. In Singapore, there has been several of such cases:
- In the case of Haron Ismail, the accused, who was on the run for 14 years, pleaded guilty and was sentenced in 2022 to housebreaking offences that were committed in 2002.
- In the case of Lau Seng Kee, the accused was charged in 2023 for a sexual assault committed in 2014, after he was arrested for another case in 2022 and his DNA matched in the police’s database.
- In Felicia Teo’s case, the accused was only charged 13 years after she had gone missing when new evidence had revealed itself.
As with any offence, it is important to note that the usual requirement that it has to be proven beyond reasonable doubt applies. This means, while it is possible for you to report a crime that happened ages ago, the passage of time may hinder the investigator’s ability to acquire the necessary evidence, or even to track down the possible witnesses. This may or may not lead to the outcome you were expecting.
However, this should not stop you from reporting a crime that happened ages ago. There is still value in making the report as it could help document the incident, potentially leading to new information or even future investigations into similar cases. For you, speaking up may also give you closure and the courage to move on.