It can be a distressing and challenging situation to find out that your child has been arrested. However, it is crucial to be informed about the legal process and about your child’s rights to reduce the stress of the situation and to obtain a best possible outcome for your child.
In Singapore, the process when a child (person below the age of 14) or young person (person above 14 years old but below 16 years old) is arrested is set out in the Criminal Procedure Code 2010 and Children and Young Persons Act 1993 (“CYPA”).
Here is a general outline of what happens:
: Following the arrest, the police would inform the young offender of the reason for their arrest. The police must handle the arrest of the young offender with care to ensure that their physical and mental well-being is safeguarded.
: The police must notify the young offender’s parents and guardians as soon as practicable following the arrest. For a young offender under the age of 16 years old, parents or guardians would generally be permitted to be present during the interactions between them and the police.
: The young offender has a similar right to legal representation and the young offender’s family can engage a lawyer to assist in the matter. If they are not able to afford a lawyer, they may also apply for legal aid. However, do note that lawyers are not permitted to speak to the child before statements are taken or to accompany the child during interviews.
: Any statement from the young offender below the age of 16 should be taken in the presence of an appropriate adult (a parent, guardian, or relative). If none is available, then a volunteer from the Appropriate Adult Scheme for Young Suspects will be arranged. This ensures the young offender understands their rights and is not intimidated or coerced into giving a statement.
: If there is a requirement for the young offender to be detained, they will be detained separately from adult detainees. Do note that this applies even during transportation or while waiting before or after Court. Generally, the young offender will be remanded in either the Singapore Girls’ Home or the Singapore Boys’ Home. During the period of detention, the young offender will be given access to education and counselling.
: In the event that the young offender is to be charged in Court, the case will usually be heard in the Youth Court, which has various sentencing options alternative to an imprisonment sentence, including probation, community service, or reformative training.
It is crucial to note that these procedures can vary depending on the severity of the offence, the young offender’s age and the surrounding circumstances. If your child has been arrested, you should speak to a criminal lawyer as soon as possible to better understand the process and to seek to protect your child’s rights.
Read more: Juvenile Crime in Singapore
The Goal of Youth Court is to Rehabilitate rather than Punish
The Youth Courts in Singapore is rehabilitative in nature, rather than punitive.
As such, the Court’s approach when dealing with young offenders is with reference to the sentencing principle of rehabilitation and reintegration, focusing on guiding the young offenders away from crime and to help them turn over a new leaf to become productive and contributing members of society.
The primary legislation governing the treatment of young offenders in Singapore is the Children and Young Persons Act 1993. When the young offender is brought before the Youth Court, the Court will take into consideration the severity of the offence, the child’s age, maturity, and the circumstances of the child.
Generally, instead of seeking to punish the child for their conduct, the Court would usually seek to understand the underlying causes of their delinquent behaviour and would try to address these issues through rehabilitation.
Some of the rehabilitation options available include:
: Probation is a sentence that allows a young offender to remain in the community under the supervision of a probation officer. It is a way of rehabilitating young offenders and preventing them from reoffending. There will usually be conditions for the young offender to follow.
Community Service Orders
: Community Service Orders (“CSOs”) are sentences which require a young offender to perform unpaid work in the community for a specified period of time. It is a way of rehabilitating offenders and giving them the opportunity to make amends for their crimes. CSOs are typically imposed on first-time offenders who have committed minor offences. They can also be imposed on repeat offenders who have not responded well to other forms of punishment, such as probation.
: A diversion program is a way of diverting young offenders away from the formal criminal justice system and into community-based programs that can help them address the underlying causes of their offending behaviour. Diversion programs are typically used for first-time offenders who have committed minor offences.
Counseling and Rehabilitation
: Young offenders may also be directed to attend counselling which will be aimed at addressing the underlying issues that contributed to their delinquent behaviour.
The goal of these rehabilitative measures is to help young offenders recognize the consequences of their actions, develop a sense of responsibility, and acquire the necessary skills to make positive life choices.
The overall objective is to prevent recidivism and offer opportunities for a fresh start. This emphasis on rehabilitation reflects Singapore’s commitment to the welfare and development of its young citizens.
|Age of Child
|Under 10 years old
|Nothing is an offence done by a child below 10 years old.
|10 to 12 years old
|Nothing is an offence which is done by a child of or above 10 years and below 12 years old, who has not attained sufficient maturity of understanding to judge of the nature and consequence of his conduct on that occasion.
A court is not to order a child below 10 years of age to be sent to a juvenile rehabilitation centre, remand home or place of detention unless for any reason, including the want of a fit person of his or her own religious persuasion who is willing to undertake the care of him or her, or the court is satisfied that he or she cannot suitably be dealt with otherwise.
|13 to 15 years old
|Generally, where a person below 16 years old is arrested, he or she will be brought before the Youth Court. The Court will then consider whether in the circumstances, bail should be granted. Rehabilitation is the primary sentencing consideration in such instances.
The parents of the young offender are required to attend Court together with the young offender.
A child below 14 years old will not be sentenced or ordered to be imprisoned for any offence or be committed to prison in default of payment of a fine or costs. A young person below age of 16 but at least 14 years old must not be ordered to be imprisoned for any offence, or be committed to prison in default of a fine, damages or costs, unless the Court certifies that he or she is of so unruly a character that he or she cannot be detained in a place of detention or juvenile rehabilitation centre.
Do note that in the event that it is a severe offence, the above process may not apply. The young offender may be also charged in the State Court or High Court, depending on the offence.
|16 to 21 years old
|The young offender who has attained the age of 16 years old will not be tried in the Youth Court. They will usually be charged in the State Court or High Court, depending on the severity of the offence. Generally, rehabilitation remains the primary sentencing consideration but the Court considers all circumstances of each case.
A person who has reached the age of 18 years old must not be detained in a place of detention. A person who has reached the age of 19 years old must not be detained in a juvenile rehabilitation center. A person who has reached the age of 21 years old must not be detained in a place of safety.
Will my child have a criminal record if convicted of a crime?
Whether or not your child will have a criminal record will depend on whether the offence was registrable or non-registrable.
For registrable offences (ie., those listed on the First Schedule of the Registration of Criminals Act 1949), the young offender’s criminal record will be kept on file by the police but this will not be disclosed publicly. For non-registrable offences, the young offender’s criminal record will not be kept on file by the police and will not be made public.
Do note that depending on the type of offence and type of sentence, the young offender may also have their records spent after a period of time. This means that the criminal record will not be kept on file and will not be made public.
This is handled differently in order to protect the young offender’s privacy and also to give them a second chance. This is in hopes that the young offender will, with rehabilitation and support will turn over a new leaf.
Will my child go to prison if convicted of a crime?
Generally, a young offender would not be sent to prison but would be sent to a juvenile home, such as the Singapore Girls’ Home or the Singapore Boys’ Home.
However, the Court will consider factor such as the nature and severity of the offence, the young offender’s age, the circumstances of the offence and the young offender’s circumstances.
Will I be charged if my child commits an offence?
No, there is no legal provision to hold a parent responsible for their child’s offences.
However, a parent may be ordered to give security (ie., money) for the child’s good behaviour and/or pay damages if the child is ordered to pay compensation. A parent may also be required to attend Court with their child.