SINGAPORE: The adequacy of current laws on child pornography and sexual offences committed against minors is under review, Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said in Parliament on Monday (Apr 3), in response to questions by Members of Parliament (MPs) Tin Pei Ling and Alex Yam.
He said the scope of the review “is quite comprehensive”, and will include whether sentences need to be enhanced and if new laws need to be drafted. The review, which is being undertaken by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) together with other ministries, is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
Mr Shanmugam, who is also the Law Minister, first mentioned the issue in March, saying he had asked MHA officials to relook sentences for offences such as those committed by Joshua Robinson, who was jailed for four years for having sex with two 15-year-old girls.
The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) decided not to appeal the sentence, but Mr Shanmugam then said the AGC’s earlier decision on what sentences to ask for was cleared at the highest levels, and was based on precedents. Many netizens and members of the public questioned whether the sentence was adequate, with more than 27,000 signing an online petition calling for a harsher sentence.
In Parliament on Monday, Ms Tin asked Mr Shanmugam for specific details, including whether the review would conclude with a toughening of penalties and legislation. Mr Shanmugam said a review would not be needed if “everything was okay as is”. In some situations, he said the laws might be adequate, but some processes - such as which charges to seek out and how to proceed - might need to be looked at.
“That’s not within the control of the Government. Which charges to prefer, how to proceed are independent decisions by the Attorney-General’s office,” he said. “But as a matter of policy, we might need to have discussions with the AGC without having to deal with individual cases.”
Mr Shanmugam said that in his opinion, penalties for offences against vulnerable victims, such as young children subjected to sexual assault and abuse of foreign domestic workers, could be stiffer.
“I speak personally here without having to prejudge the issue ... (Domestic helpers) are human beings. They come here, they do the work because we don’t have enough people, and they have to be treated with certain dignity and a certain respect of the law. They are not slaves,” he said.
Responding to Mr Yam’s question on whether the review would also include a public consultation exercise, Mr Shanmugam said it would be likely.