Singapore

MPs seek more protection for those wrongly accused of sex crimes

MPs yesterday welcomed new laws to raise penalties for various sexual offences but also sought more protection for those who are wrongly accused of such crimes.

They also raised concerns over several changes outlined in the Criminal Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill passed yesterday.

Nominated MP Raj Joshua Thomas called for a study on whether or not the identities of those accused of sexual crimes should be published before they are convicted and have exhausted all avenues of appeal. He cited the case of Dr Yeo Sow Nam, who was given a discharge amounting to an acquittal on four counts of outraging a woman's modesty after his accuser admitted she had lied in court.

Responding, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said the approach of open court proceedings for cases of sexual assault will remain but this is "not set in stone". He noted it is already an offence to make false allegations in court or lodge false police reports, and those convicted of doing so could face severe penalties.

Section 182 of the Penal Code sets out a maximum jail term of two years and a fine for any individual who knowingly provides false information to public servants to mislead them into using their powers for certain acts, such as to injure or annoy another person.

The Bill amends this section to cover cases where a person gives false information to cause a public servant to use lawful powers ineffectively or inefficiently.

It also makes clear that giving false information can constitute obstruction of a public servant's duties under Section 186 of the Penal Code and raises the maximum jail term for such offences from three months to six months.

Workers' Party MP Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC) said these changes will result in a blurring of the distinction between these offences and that of the more general offence of giving false information to a public servant under Section 177.

She noted that some of the scenarios illustrated in the Bill are already caught by Section 177 and it is unclear why the changes are necessary or desirable.

Mr Shanmugam said the changes will better cover different types of criminal conduct.

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