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Voyeurism, ‘cyber flashing’ emerging new crimes targeted under Criminal Law Reform Bill

These offences are in response to emerging crime trends brought about by technology such as mobile devices and social media.

Voyeurism, ‘cyber flashing’ emerging new crimes targeted under Criminal Law Reform Bill

Photo illustration of a person taking an upskirt photo. (Photo: Gaya Chandramohan)

SINGAPORE: Crimes brought about by advances in technology such as voyeurism and “cyber flashing” will be deemed as offences should the Criminal Law Reform Bill be passed in Parliament. 

The bill, which was read for the first time in Parliament on Monday (Feb 11), stated that the production, possession and distribution of voyeuristic recordings, regardless of the victim’s gender, will be criminalised. This follows recommendations from the Penal Code Review Committee (PCRC) submitted last August, and which the Government had accepted. 

READ: Marital rape, voyeurism to become offences in ‘sweeping’ changes proposed for Singapore’s penal code

This will better address cases of upskirt photography and the circulation of such images, said the ministries of Law and Home Affairs in a joint press release issued the same day.

The PCRC had previously said in its report that the existing law is “inadequate” to address this, particularly in the “surreptitious recording of others in circumstances of undress or intimacy and the dissemination of such recordings”. 

READ: Spy cameras, illicit filming and upskirt photos: Are you being watched?

Another emerging crime trend of distributing nude, semi-nude or other sexual images without consent, sometimes described as revenge pornography, was also targeted. The bill introduced a new offence of distributing or threatening to distribute an intimate image.

The committee had stated that Singapore’s Penal Code did not have a specific offence that criminalises this behaviour, and that a “stronger and consistent response is required”. A new offence of sexual exposure will be created to deal with flashers, or persons exposing his or her genitalia intending or knowing that this will humiliate or cause distress and alarm to the observer.

“Cyber flashing” will also be criminalised after the Government took into account feedback from the law community.

This would cover situations where images of genitalia are sent to recipients without their consent and with the intention to cause humiliation, distress or alarm, the ministries said. 

The laws will also deal with the act of distributing or threatening to distribute such content over platforms that have a time limitation, such as Snapchat that automatically deletes content after a day and Telegram that has a self-destruct timer function for private chat messages.

"The act of distribution of such images will be an offence, even if the content was uploaded with a time limitation,” the ministries clarified.

In the area of white-collar crime, the PCRC recommended introducing a new fraud offence focusing on the dishonest or fraudulent intent, rather than the effect the deception caused to the victim.

Agreeing to create this new offence, the ministries cited the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), which is often used as a benchmark for other financial products, as an example. Manipulating LIBOR using false submissions by banks would not necessarily throw up any specific person who suffered loss, but it was possible to say that the manipulators had benefited, they added.

Some respondents cautioned though that the maximum jail sentence of 20 years and unlimited fine quantum for the new offence was “too high”, the release said. 

To this, the ministries said it is to address “single charges of fraud that may involve serious betrayal of trust, multiple victims and/or substantial loss”, but there is no mandatory minimum sentence and courts have discretion to factor case facts in sentencing.

Source: CNA/kk


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