With the uprise of the #MeToo movement on social media platforms, perhaps you’ve been wondering about some of the sexual offences people have shared about. This article strives to explain what the offence of outrage of modesty is, and the penalties tied to it.
It is important to note that while the media might typically portray victims of outrage of modesty as female, one can be a victim regardless of gender. Likewise, a person may be charged with outrage of modesty regardless of their gender.
What is outrage of modesty?
In Singapore, outrage of modesty – commonly known as molest – is governed by section 354 of the Penal Code (Cap 224). Outrage of modesty occurs when someone assaults or uses criminal force on a person, intending or knowing that they are likely to outrage the modesty of that person.
This also means that consent must not be present, as there must have the intention to outrage the person’s modesty. Where the person consents to the act, there is no outrage of modesty.
Some examples of acts which might constitute outrage of modesty include:
- Touching someone’s thighs on public transport;
- Slapping someone’s buttocks without their consent;
- Squeezing someone’s chest over their clothes
What is aggravated outrage of modesty?
Aggravated outrage of modesty is governed by section 354A of the Penal Code (Cap 224). A person might be charged with aggravated outrage of modesty if they:
- Cause or attempt to cause death, hurt, wrongful restraint, fear of instant death, instant hurt or instant restraint while trying to commit outrage of modesty; or
- Commits such offence in a lift of any building; or
- Commits such offence against a person under 14 years of age.
What if I attempted to molest someone, but did not actually do it?
An attempt to molest someone might be punishable under section 511 of the Penal Code (Cap 224). Whether someone can be charged for the attempt depends on whether they took a substantial step towards committing the offence, which shows the intention to commit molesting.
Some examples of such substantial steps are:
- Lying in wait, searching for or following the potential victim;
- Enticing or seeking to entice the potential victim to go somewhere where the outrage of modesty can be committed;
- Going to a place to “recce” if the molest can be committed there.
What kind of penalties could I face?
In cases of outrage of modesty, the current penalties include a maximum of 3 years’ imprisonment, or a fine or caning, or any combination of such punishments.
In cases of aggravated outrage of modesty, the current penalties include imprisonment for between 2 and 10 years, and caning.
In contested cases (that is, convictions entered following trial), the courts have come up with a sentencing framework (table below). However, note that this applies before the maximum imprisonment term was increased in March 2022. Therefore, for subsequent cases, the courts might scale the sentence up.
Sentencing Framework for Outrage of Modesty
(Kunasekaran s/o Kalimuthu Somasundara v PP  SGHC 9)
|0 – 1 offence-specific factors;
|Less than 5 months’ imprisonment
|2 or more offence-specific factors; Lower end: private parts of victim intruded, but no skin-on-skin contact Higher end: skin-on-skin contact with victim’s private parts; use of deception
|5-15 months’ imprisonment
|Numerous offence-specific factors; Exploitation of a particularly vulnerable victim; Serious abuse of a position of trust; Use of violence or force on the victim
|15-24 months’ imprisonment
Penalties for Offences where hurt (or grievous hurt) is caused
- Degree of sexual exploitation – whether there was touching of the groin area or the private parts; skin-to-skin contact
- Circumstances of the offence – if the victim is vulnerable; if the incident took place on public transport
- Harm caused to the victim – significant emotional and psychological trauma suffered by the victim
However, it is emphasised that the circumstances of each case are different. The court will consider factors such as the offender’s personal circumstances, and further evaluate the sentence imposed. An accused person’s plea of guilt, presence of a mental disorder, or remorse are mitigating factors that may be taken into account.
What if I think I am in trouble?
If you have been charged with the outrage of modesty, we urge you to consult a lawyer immediately. Our experienced criminal defense lawyers at Gloria James-Civetta & Co can assist in both pre-trial and trial stages.