Criminal force, assault, and criminal intimidation are severe offences under Singapore’s Penal Code. Such laws are essential pillars in maintaining law and order within the country. The criminalisation of such offences aims to protect individuals from physical harm and ensure public safety.
Understanding the elements of these offences is essential for comprehending the legal rights and responsibilities of individuals involved in such cases.
While criminal force, assault, and criminal intimidation all come under the umbrella of “Offences Affecting the Human Body,” each varies in their degrees of seriousness, so they are individually defined and have their sentencing guidelines.
Criminal force, assault, and criminal intimidation charges are taken seriously in Singapore’s criminal justice system, especially if the accusation is related to domestic violence, sexual offences, and road rage.
These charges generally carry an imprisonment term.
According to Section 350 of the Penal Code, a person uses criminal force on another if they use force on another person with the intent to cause the person to commit an offence or intention to use unlawful force on another person to cause annoyance, fear, and injury to the person whom the force is used on.
Gripping another person’s arm without their consent may amount to an offence of causing criminal force. This offence is so even if it does not lead to an injury sustained.
The critical elements of the offence are the intentional use of force (physical element), lack of consent, and an intention or knowledge that the use of force will cause injury, fear, or annoyance to the other person (mental element).
Pouring boiling water on another person falls under this offence as well. Similarly, splashing or throwing any items at another person (such as paint or even faeces) also amounts to an offence of causing criminal force.
Criminal Force Against Public Servants
Section 21 of the Penal Code defines a public servant as an individual who works for the state or local government.
Section 353 deals with criminal force against public servants (carrying a much more severe punishment), while Section 354 deals with criminal force (or assault) with the intent to outrage their modesty (this has a higher sentence as well).
Punishment for Criminal Force
Section 352 sets out the punishment for this offence – imprisonment of up to 3 months, a fine of up to S$1,500, or both. Interestingly, Section 352 provides a mitigating factor for this offence – “grave and sudden provocation” – where the offender unwittingly and unexpectedly commits the offence due to being severely provoked. The factor is a question of fact for the offender to prove.
Other Defences for Criminal Force
What if my friend dared me to grip their arm to see how long they could tolerate the pain? Would I still be guilty of using Criminal Force, then? There are a few defences that accused individuals can raise when faced with a charge of use of Criminal Force.
Consent: According to Section 88 of the Penal Code, if the accused can prove that the alleged victim consented to the use of force, he may be able to raise the defence of consent.
Self-defence: Under Section 96 of the Penal Code, if the accused used force in self-defence to protect themselves from immediate harm, it can be a valid defence. The force used must be proportionate to the threat faced by the accused and must be reasonably necessary to protect themselves.
Defence of property: According to Section 97 of the Penal Code, if the accused used Criminal Force to protect their property from being taken unlawfully, it can be a relevant defence against the offence. Again, the force must be proportionate to the threat and reasonably necessary to protect the property.
Mistake of fact: Under Section 79 of the Penal Code, it can be a defence if the accused can show that they reasonably believed they were justified in using force based on a mistaken understanding of the facts. However, the mistake must be reasonable and not based on negligence or recklessness.
Sections 353 to 357 provide more specific examples of the use of criminal force in the furtherance of various objectives–each carrying different punishments.
Criminal Force used in the furtherance of:
Outrage of modesty
3 years imprisonment, fine, caning – or any such combination of punishments under Section 354 of the Penal Code. Read more… Outrage of modesty
An attempt to dishonour
2 years imprisonment, fine or both pursuant to Section 355 of the Penal Code.
Up to 7 years imprisonment (minimum 1 year), fine, caning – or any such combination of punishments under Section 356 of the Penal Code. Read more… Committing Theft
1-year imprisonment, $3000 fine or both under Section 357 of the Penal Code.
Frequently Asked Questions on Criminal Force
Can a person be charged with criminal force if they did not physically harm the other person but only threatened to do so?
Yes, a person can be charged with criminal force even if they did not physically harm the other person and only made threats to do so. Even if no physical harm occurs, the act of threatening someone with force can still constitute an offence. Section 351 of the Penal Code covers the offence of using criminal force to cause fear of harm.
Can a person be charged with criminal force if the alleged victim sustained no visible injuries?
Yes, a person can be charged with criminal force even if the alleged victim sustained no visible injuries. The offence of criminal force is not dependent on the presence of physical injuries, but rather on the intentional use of force without consent. The absence of visible injuries does not negate the act of using force against another person.
Can a push be considered criminal force?
Yes, Section 349 of the Penal Code identifies a push as criminal force if it is intentionally used against the victim without their consent. The force used does not have to cause significant harm or injury.
A person commits assault when they cause another person to apprehend that the individual is about to commit an unlawful use of force on him.
According to Section 351 of the Penal Code, a person commits assault when they make a gesture or preparation to cause the person (victim) to apprehend that the person (offender) who makes the gesture is about to apply criminal force on the victim.
Mere words do not constitute assault, but it amounts to assault if the offender’s remarks may give to his gestures, causing the victim to feel that he may be attacked.
Punishment for Assault
The penalty for criminal force and assault is the same. According to Section 352, whoever assaults or uses criminal force will be imprisoned for up to 3 months or liable for a fine of up to S$1,500, or with both.
Frequently Asked Questions on Assault
Can a person be charged with both criminal force and assault for the same incident?
No, generally, a person cannot be charged with criminal force and assault for the same incident because they are alternative offences. However, there may be situations where both offences are charged if the accused person’s actions encompass elements of both criminal force and assault. The prosecution will typically choose to charge the more appropriate offence based on the case’s circumstances.
Can verbal threats alone constitute assault?
Yes, verbal threats can constitute assault if they cause the victim to reasonably fear immediate physical harm. Physical contact doesn’t need to occur for an act to be considered assault. The critical element is creating a reasonable fear of immediate physical harm.
Can assault be charged even if there is no physical contact or injury?
Yes, assault can be charged even without physical contact or injury. The absence of physical harm does not negate the act of assault. The offence is focused on causing the victim to apprehend the unlawful use of criminal force – regardless of whether physical contact or actual injury occurs.
What is the difference between assault and criminal force?
The difference between assault and criminal force lies in the nature of the act. Assault can involve causing another person to fear the impending use of criminal force against them, while criminal force involves the actual act of intentional use of force without consent. While both offences can involve physical acts, assault is primarily concerned with creating fear, whereas criminal force focuses on using force itself.
Are there different degrees of assault in Singapore?
Yes, there are different degrees of assault in Singapore. The varying severity of the offences means different charges and penalties accordingly. For example, there are offences such as voluntarily causing hurt (Section 321 of the Penal Code) or causing grievous hurt (Section 322 of the Penal Code), which involve more serious acts of violence and carry higher penalties.
How do Assault and Voluntarily Causing Hurt differ?
Under Section 321 of the Penal Code, whoever does any act to cause hurt to any person, or with the knowledge that he is likely to cause hurt to any person, and does thereby cause hurt to any person, is said: “voluntarily to cause hurt.” While Voluntarily Causing Hurt requires force, assault does not. Whoever makes a gesture or preparation knowing that the person present will believe that force will be used, has committed assault, e.g., A shakes his fist at Z, intending or knowing it to be likely that he may thereby cause Z to believe that A is about to strike Z. A has committed an assault.
Thus, it is essential to note that no physical force or harm needs to be applied to count as an assault, whereas this would be required for criminal force or voluntarily causing harm.
Assault: How does it differ under criminal law and civil law?
In civil law, an assault is an act that directly and intentionally causes a claimant (the person who brought the lawsuit and may also be called a “plaintiff”) to reasonably fear the immediate infliction of harm (“battery”). Under civil law, assault can also be considered a tort (“civil wrong”). You can sue another person in Court if they commit a tort against you, but the state usually prosecutes criminal offences. Unlike in criminal law, words alone can constitute assault in civil law.
Grave and Sudden Provocation: What Are They?
Grave and sudden provocation mitigates the sentence for criminal force or assault. The victim’s grave and sudden provocation, however, would not be considered an excuse or mitigating factor if:
- The perpetrator provoked the victim into provoking them.
- The offender sought provocation.
- The provocation was lawful, and the offender knew or had reason to believe that it was lawful.
- The provocation was committed by a public servant exercising lawful authority.
- In exercising his legal right to private defence, the victim provoked the offender.
In Singapore, criminal intimidation is criminalised under Section 503 of the Penal Code.
According to Section 503, whoever (offender) threatens to cause any injury to any person, reputation or property, or the person or reputation of anyone whom that person has an interest in, intending to cause any alarm to that person or to cause that person to carry out any unlawful act or omit to do any act which that person is entitled to do to avoid the threat by the offender, is guilty of criminal intimidation.
Punishment for Criminal Intimidation
According to Section 506, whoever is guilty of criminal intimidation will be imprisoned for up to 2 years or liable for a fine or both.
If the offender threatens to cause death or grievous hurt, or to destroy any property by fire or to cause any offence that is punishable by death or imprisonment for a term up to 7 years or more or impute unchastity to a woman, he/she will be imprisoned for a term up to 10 years or shall be liable for a fine, or both.
Frequently Asked Questions on Criminal Intimidation
Can a person be charged with criminal intimidation based solely on verbal threats?
Yes, a person can be charged with criminal intimidation based solely on verbal threats if those threats are made with the intent to cause fear or alarm in the victim. Physical harm or contact is not necessary for the offence to be established. The key element is the intent to cause fear through the communicated threats.
Can a threat made over the phone constitute criminal intimidation?
Yes, threats made over the phone, through electronic communication channels, for example, can constitute criminal intimidation – if they meet the elements of the offence. The medium through which the threat is communicated does not change the nature of the offence. The key factor is whether the threat is intended to cause fear or alarm in the recipient or cause that person to carry out any unlawful act or omit to do any act they would typically be entitled to do.
What if the threat was made in a moment of anger or frustration without intention to cause fear?
The prosecution must prove that the threat was made with the intent to cause fear or alarm to establish a charge of criminal intimidation. If it can be shown that the threat was made impulsively or in the heat of the moment without a genuine intent to cause fear, it may be a valid defence against the charge. This is known as the defence of provocation – and if successfully raised, might see a reduction in charges or penalties faced by the accused.
Can a person be charged with criminal intimidation if the threat was not directed at a specific individual but a group of people?
Yes, a person can be charged with criminal intimidation even if the threat was directed at a group of people rather than a specific individual. If the threat is intended to cause fear or alarm in the members of that group, it can still constitute the offence of criminal intimidation.
How GJC Law can help you
Legal Advice: Our team here at GJC can provide you with expert legal advice tailored to your specific situation. We can explain the charges you are facing, your rights and the potential consequences you may face. After thoroughly examining the case, we can advise you on the best action.
Legal Representation: After assessing your situation, our team will review the evidence and look at any possible defences you may be able to raise; before developing a strong defence strategy for you. We will prepare and file the necessary legal documents, such as pleadings and motions – and represent you in legal proceedings. Our highly-skilled team is more than capable of presenting your case before the court.
Plea Bargaining: If possible, our team can negotiate with the prosecution on your behalf. Depending on the circumstances, we can aim to reduce the charges you are facing, or secure a favourable plea bargain* for you.
* A plea bargain is an arrangement between prosecutor and defendant, whereby the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a more lenient sentence – or an agreement to drop other charges.
- 6th May 2019 Bill Amendments to Singapore’s Penal Code
- When are Offenders “Warned in Lieu of Prosecution”?
- Defence of Provocation
- Summary on Stern Warning