Conditional discharge for some offenders in minor crimes

SINGAPORE - A sizeable proportion of relatively minor offences such as theft, causing hurt and criminal intimidation that come before the courts are fuelled by alcohol or other addictions.

And such offenders often find themselves repeatedly being convicted and even jailed.

To address this issue, the Community Courts will be adopting a new sentencing approach, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon announced on Friday.

He said: "Instead of passing sentence immediately, directions will be made for such offenders to undergo treatment, receive counselling, take medication, and/or vountarily undergo residential or structured programmes offered by voluntary welfare organisations to encourage them to actually address and resolve the underlying issue."

The courts will monitor an offender's compliance with the directions for up to six months, and then decide on a sentence to impose.

A conditional discharge, requiring that the offender stays crime-free for a year, could be one outcome.

In appropriate cases, offenders may also be subjected to post-sentence monitoring by the Progress Accountability Court, which was set up in 2014, added the Chief Justice, who was speaking at the State Courts Workplan 2016.

While no date has been fixed for the implementation of the new pre-sentencing protocol, CJ Menon said the Singapore After-Care Association (Saca) has agreed to collaborate with the State Courts on this.

It will help the courts by providing, among other things, counselling services, befriending and pro-social support, monitoring the offender's compliance with court directions such as a curfew, and liaising with the offender's employer and family.

Other volunteer organisation may also be engaged by the State Courts.

Saca, a voluntary welfare organisation affiliated with the National Council of Social Service, seeks to empower ex-offenders and facilitates their reintegration into society.

This article was first published on March 5, 2016.
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