Government ‘will not tolerate’ abuse of cops
Shanmugam: Cases of people abusing police officers on the rise; Government will press for 'very strict sentences' for offenders
There was more than one case daily on average of a police officer on duty being physically or verbally abused last year.
Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam said this is "unacceptable" and the Government will do more to protect police officers.
Speaking at the Minister's Award ceremony at the Home Team Academy yesterday, Mr Shanmugam revealed there were 484 cases of such abuse last year, up from 344 in 2015.
He added that between 2014 and last year, there had been more than a 65 per cent increase in the number of cases.
To arrest this alarming trend, Mr Shanmugam said the Government has been working with the Attorney-General's Chambers to protect police officers and will continue to press for "very strict sentences" for criminals who abuse them.
"And if that approach does not work, we will re-look the legal framework," he added.
In his opening address, Mr Shanmugam said: "One of the things we have made very clear is that we will not tolerate (abuse of officers). We will stand up for our officers against people who obstruct them from carrying out their duties or cause them physical and verbal harm.
"What the public may not understand is that it is not easy for our officers to deal with people who are violent, because they want to exercise reasonable force."
Mr Shanmugam cited a case in April involving 44-year-old Jason Peter Darragh, an Australian who was caught on video hitting, taunting and verbally abusing two police officers at Changi Airport.
It was reported that Darragh, who was drunk at the time, not only verbally abused police officers, he also taunted them, and shoved and charged at them.
It required at least six policemen to eventually restrain and arrest him.
The Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) had asked for a sentence of at least 8½ months' jail because of Darragh's "brazen" offences and "gross disregard for the law and authority of police officers", but the judge handed him a prison term of 6½ months.
On appeal, the DPP argued that the original jail term was manifestly inadequate, given the degree of "defiance and audacity" displayed by Darragh, adding that the offences at the airport caused public disquiet and that the video, which went viral, endangered the reputation of the police force.
The appeal was accepted and Darragh's jail time was extended by two months.
Said the judge at the time, Justice See Kee Oon: "His taunts and verbal abuse demonstrated his complete contempt and disregard for their (the police officers') authority."
Lawyers told The New Paper the Government's stance was not surprising because of the "rising trend" of officer abuse.
Criminal lawyer Rajan Supramaniam said: "We are seeing more of this, and it is on the rise. In the course of these officers carrying out their duty, these offenders get abusive.
"There is no excuse, and officers should be safeguarded because they are just carrying out their duties to keep Singapore safe. By dealing with these abusive offenders more severely, the Government is sending out a deterrence message."
Mr Bryan Tan, a partner at law firm Pinsent Masons MPillay, agreed, adding it was important for the authorities to make it clear that abuse will not be tolerated.
"Deterrence only works if there is big enough bite and it has to be communicated. These officers operate under difficult circumstances, where danger is involved," said Mr Tan.
"They deserve all the protection and assistance they can get."
A total of 134 awards across four categories were handed out to officers across all the Home Team agencies at the ceremony yesterday.
The annual awards aim to recognise officers, teams and agencies that have shown outstanding efficiency and competency in major operations, cases and projects.
They also celebrate those who have displayed high standards of innovation and service excellence.