SINGAPORE: Criminals who prey on vulnerable victims and young people will face harsher punishments as amendments to the Penal Code kick in on Jan 1, 2020.
Most of the amendments introduced through the Criminal Law Reform Act and Protection from Harassment (Amendment) Act, passed by Parliament in May, will take effect next year, said the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Law in a joint media release on Friday (Dec 27).
The maximum punishment for certain offences against vulnerable victims – including those below 14 years old, domestic workers and those with mental or physical disabilities – have been doubled.
The higher maximum sentences also apply for some offences, such as rape, hurt or wrongful confinement, which are committed against people in an intimate or close relationship with the perpetrator.
This includes victims who are members of the same household and who have frequent contact with the person who did them harm.
The court will determine if the offender was in an intimate relationship with the victim, authorities said, taking into account whether they cared for and supported a child together, were financially dependent on each other or shared tasks and duties in their daily lives.
The enhanced penalties also apply to offenders who have repeatedly breached Protection Orders and Expedited Orders.
BETTER PROTECTION FOR MINORS
New offences will also be introduced for sex crimes against victims under 18 years old but above 16 - the age of consent for sexual activity.
While the age of consent will be kept at 16, exploitative sexual penetration or sexual grooming of a minor who is between 16 and 18 are now crimes.
Other new offences include sexual communication with a minor below 16, engaging in sexual activity in front of a minor or causing them to look at a sexual image.
Authorities have also criminalised a spectrum of offences to deal with the supply and consumption of child abuse material. The new offences include the production, distribution, advertising and possession of child abuse material.
Offences related to "cyber-flashing" and the distribution of voyeuristic recordings or intimate images will also take effect on Jan 1.
ATTEMPTED SUICIDE, MARITAL RAPE
Following the wide-ranging review of the penal code, marital immunity for rape will be fully repealed while attempted suicide will be decriminalised.
"Sexual relations in any relationship should be based on mutual consent. This amendment ensures that all women are protected from sexual abuse," authorities said in the release, on marital rape.
READ: Marital rape, voyeurism to become offences in ‘sweeping’ changes proposed for Singapore’s penal code
They added that the abetment of either suicide or attempted suicide will continue to be a crime.
A number of amendments will take effect at a later date, including the raising of the minimum age of criminal responsibility from seven to 10 years old.
The amendments will be brought into force when the framework to intervene in and address offending behaviour in children below 10 years of age is finalised, the release said.
Other amendments to come include adding new variants of fraud as offences to target novel and complex schemes, as well as other harassment-related amendments.