Singapore’s Ministry of Law and Ministry of Home Affairs introduced the Criminal Procedure (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2024 into Parliament, aiming to institute new rules for forensic medical examinations (FME) and allowing for the indefinite detention of serious sexual offenders.
The bill defines an FMEs as “physical medical examinations, collection of body samples from any body part, taking of photographs, casts and impressions of body parts, which may include intimate parts” conducted by medical professionals only. These examinations are used in sexual assault cases, which is the ministers’ focus as they cite two past cases where such exams were used to identify suspects accused of rape and pedophilia, respectively.
The proposed FME rules govern collection from both the accused and any alleged victims.
For the accused, the proposed legislation will empower police to “require accused persons to undergo FME” when it is relevant to their investigation and when the offence is “reasonably suspected to have been committed.” An accused’s refusal to participate in the examination will be met with a fine and up to 7 years in prison. Furthermore, if the accused lacks a “reasonable excuse” for not participating in the examination, a court may “draw negative inferences” against them in criminal proceedings. The bill also allows for “reasonably necessary force” to be used to obtain an FME but limits the use of force when the examination involves intimate parts or invasive procedures like buccal swabs.
Consent will “generally be required” to perform an FME on an alleged victim. However, limitations arise based on age, the victim’s mental and physical condition, and where delays in consent would ultimately hinder the FME result. The consenting age to undergo an FME is 16 years or older. Between 14-15 years old, consent of the victim and a parent/guardian is required, and, if under 14 years old, a parent or guardian’s consent is solely required. Consent, however, can be waived if police have “reasonable ground to believe” that the victim is unable to consent given their condition, if the parent/guardian is being investigated in the matter, if the parent/guardian has abstained from giving consent or if any delays in consent would hinder the FME result.
The bill also features sentencing reform, proposing to abolish Corrective Training (CT) sentences and to change the Preventive Detention (PT) sentencing regime to Sentences for Public Protection (SPP). The bill also introduces a new scheme, Sentence for Enhanced Public Protection (SEPP).
SPPs would lower the PT sentencing threshold from 30 years old to 21 years old and create a fixed sentencing term of 5-20 years. Under SPP, the Minister for Home Affairs can release a prisoner after two-thirds of their sentence is served. SEPPs on the other hand, are stricter and meant for serious sexual crimes, with the accused being of a minimum of 21 years of age. A minimum sentence can be anywhere between 5-20 years, or life and after completion, if not suitable for release, the prisoner can be held “up to life,” subject to review by the Minister of Home Affairs.
These proposed measures come following international criticism this past August, where UN Human Rights experts urged Singapore to stop its “cruel and inhumane punishment” of executions for those convicted of drug trafficking.
The proposed bill will undergo two more readings in Parliament, where debate and amendments usually take place. If successful in these three stages, the bill will be given to the president for assent.