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Relook sentences for offenders like Joshua Robinson: K Shanmugam

The Minister for Home Affairs and Law says he has asked officials to consider what approaches are necessary for offenders like Robinson to be dealt with more severely through higher penalties.

SINGAPORE: Sentences for offences such as those committed by Joshua Robinson need to be relooked, said Minister for Home Affairs and Law K Shanmugam on Wednesday (Mar 8).

The mixed martial arts instructor was jailed four years for having sex with two 15-year-old girls - a sentence that the public prosecutor has decided not to appeal against, despite an online petition that called the sentence "unacceptable". The petition has drawn nearly 27,000 signatures to date.

"If we don’t think the sentences, based on precedents, are adequate, then we consider what can be done," said Mr Shanmugam in written comments in response to media queries. He is in Australia for a working trip.

"I do think that the sentences for such offences committed by Robinson need to be relooked at. That is why I have asked my ministries to study this."

Mr Shanmugam added: "I have asked my officials to consider what approaches are necessary for offenders like Robinson to be dealt with more severely through higher penalties."

He noted, for instance, that the law does not provide for caning in any of the offences Robinson was charged with - a point brought up by the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) in explaining the reasons for Robinson's sentence.

Mr Shanmugam declined to comment on what penalties he had in mind. "It is premature to answer this now," he said, adding that this will be considered.

ROBINSON CASE RECEIVED ATTENTION "AT THE VERY HIGHEST LEVEL"

On the AGC's decision not to appeal, Mr Shanmugam said: "I have been told that the original decision on what sentences to ask for was cleared at the highest levels - by the previous AG himself, based on precedents from previous cases.

"So this matter had received attention at the very highest level," he said.

"AGC have explained why they have decided that they could not appeal. I can understand that having taken a position in court, on what the sentence should be, it is difficult for AGC to now appeal."

Mr Shanmugam noted that the AGC explained it took its position based on precedent. "In our system, decisions on prosecution, sentence to ask for, and appeals, are all within the discretion of the AGC. We need to respect the decision of AGC," he said.