Award Banner
Award Banner

Those who commit serious sexual and violent crimes can be held indefinitely after jail term under proposed law

Those who commit serious sexual and violent crimes can be held indefinitely after jail term under proposed law
Offenders who commit serious sexual or violent crimes can now be held indefinitely after their jail term under a new law.
PHOTO: The Straits Times file

Those convicted of serious violent and sexual crimes may no longer be automatically released at the end of their prison term, if Parliament passes a new sentencing regime proposed by the Ministry of Law and Ministry of Home Affairs. 

"We want to ensure that such dangerous and high-risk offenders are not released back into the community until they no longer pose a threat to public safety," the ministries said in a joint press release.

"Our current sentencing options are inadequate to deal with such egregious offending. For offences that do not attract life imprisonment, the available sentencing options all presently require an offender to be released automatically after a certain point, regardless of the threat they pose to others."

The Criminal Procedure (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill, which was read in Parliament on Wednesday (Jan 10), includes proposals to advance the criminal justice system to protect the public. 

One of the proposed key amendments to the Bill is a new sentencing regime known as the Sentence for Enhanced Public Protection (SEPP). 

SEPP is limited to dangerous offenders who have been convicted of serious violent or sexual offences such as culpable homicide, rape and the sexual penetration of minors.

Offenders sentenced to SEPP will be detained for a minimum period of between five and 20 years as determined by the court. At the end of the minimum term, the offender will only be released if he or she has been assessed by the Minister for Home Affairs to "no longer pose a threat to the public". 

This is unlike a jail sentence whereby the offender is released after serving his or her sentence imposed by the court. 

If the offender is deemed unsuitable for release, he or she may be detained up to life. Regular reviews will be conducted to assess his or her suitability for release. 

Should the offender be found suitable for release, he or she will be released on license and subjected to certain conditions. The offender may also be unconditionally discharged thereafter, if appropriate. 

The ministries also gave some examples of recent egregious cases that would be considered suitable for SEPP.

In September 2023, an offender was sentenced to 40 years' imprisonment and 24 strokes of the cane for raping and sexually assaulting six boys. He had preyed on underaged relatives as well as boys he met in his neighbourhood.

An IMH report found that he had paedophilic disorder and presented a "clear danger to young boys". The prosecution also described his case as "one of the worst cases of paedophilic sexual abuse". 

In June 2022, another offender was sentenced to 45 years' jail for sexually abusing eight children with learning or physical disabilities after offering to tutor them. He pleaded guilty to aggravated rape committed against three of the victims over a period of 16 years.

Diagnosed with paedophilic disorder, he was assessed to be "at very risk of repeated sexual offending against young female victims".

However, the ministries clarified that these offenders cannot be sentenced to SEPP since they have already been convicted. 

The sentence can only be meted out to offenders aged 21 and above at the time of the offence, they added. 

Safeguards will also be put in place to ensure fair sentencing. 

Besides the proposal of SEPP, the ministries also said that it is necessary to review the current sentencing options for repeat offenders who commit serious crimes. 

They proposed to replace the Corrective Training (CT) and Preventive Detention (PD) regimes with the Sentence for Public Protection (SPP).

SPP will apply to those aged 21 and above at the time of offence, with sentence for a fixed term of 5 to 20 years.

Offenders may be released on license by Minister of Home Affairs after two-thirds of the sentence, and must be released after serving the full term.

SPP will be imposed by the court after considering prisons' pre-sentencing report, the ministries explained. 

The current regimes, CT and PD, only allow offenders to be incarcerated for a set duration. 

The CT regimes applies to offenders aged 18 years and above, who would usually serve a term between five and 14 years which entails detention in prison and possible early release for supervision in the community. 

The PD regime, on the other hand, applies to offenders aged 30 and above, whom the courts deem need to be detained for a substantial period. Offenders sentenced to PD usually serve a term of between 7 and 20 years.

This website is best viewed using the latest versions of web browsers.