After months of parliamentary debates, the Criminal Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act 2021 (“the Act”) was passed by the Parliament on 13 September 2021 and assented to by the President on 28 September 2021. This Act (except for section 3) came into operation on 1 March 2022.
What is the purpose of the Act?
The Act contains amendments to the Penal Code (“PC”) – it seeks to update certain criminal offences, enhance the punishment for sexual offences, and clarify the application of certain provisions.
The Act also makes changes to other legislation such as the Animals and Birds Act, the Children and Young Persons Act, the Criminal Procedure Code and the Registration of Criminals Act. In this article, we will be focusing on the changes to the PC.
Why are there changes?
The changes came in the wake of a significant review of hurt and sexual offences which was addressed by the Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam in March 2021.
In the statement, the Ministry of Law and the Ministry of Home Affairs said that was an average of 1,190 outrage of modesty cases reported each year from 2016 to 2020. This was 24 per cent higher than the number of cases from 2011 to 2015.
The Parliament was therefore of the view that there is a need to strengthen protections for victims of sexual and hurt offences, as well as a need to adopt a deterrent stance towards adult offenders who commit certain hurt and sexual offences.
Changes to the Penal Code
Increased penalties for certain sexual offences
|Offence||Maximum imprisonment term (Previous)||Maximum imprisonment term (Current)|
|Outrage of modesty (also known as “molest”)||2 years||3 years|
|Engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a minor or causing a minor to view a sexual image, where a minor is below 16 years old||1 year||2 years|
|Engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a minor or causing a minor to view a sexual image, where a minor is between 16 and 18 years old and if there is an exploitative relationship between the perpetrator and the minor||1 year||2 years|
Scope of certain offences
There are also several amendments that expand and clarify the scope of the following offences:
- Providing false information to a public servant: This has been expanded to cover scenarios where a person gives false information with the intent of causing or knowing that it will likely cause, the public servant to be ineffective or inefficient in exercising his lawful powers (such as intentionally misleading the police about the identity of a suspect).
- Procuring sexual activity by deception or false representation: This has been expanded to cover scenarios such as lying that one would use sexually protective measures (such as a condom) but subsequently not doing so.
- Sexual penetration of a corpse: This has been amended to be gender-neutral and expanded to cover a wider range of penetrative acts.
Modernised language of certain terms of the Penal Code
The amendments replace certain archaic terms (such as “wantonly”, “malignantly” and “maliciously”) with terms that are more easily understood, and already defined in the PC (such as “rashly” or “intentionally”).
The rationale for modernising the language of certain terms was to ensure that the statute is more accessible to present-day readers and to provide clarity on what is potentially an offence and what is not.
The above changes are examples of the law being alive and receptive – evolving over time together with society and its changing needs.
GJC Law can help you
If you think that you have done something that may constitute an offence, we suggest that you reach out to our experienced criminal lawyers who will be able to assist you and provide you with timely legal advice.