MP Pritam Singh

Mr Pritam Singh (Aljunied): Thank you, Speaker. I thank the Minister for the Statement. My query pertains to hurt offences. I take the Minister back to the debate when the Criminal Law Reform Bill was tabled in Parliament in 2019. There was a discussion amongst Members of how voluntarily causing hurt, being a non-arrestable offence, is dealt with by the Police. Then-Senior Parliamentary Secretary who at the round-up speech confirmed that Police do look at voluntarily causing hurt (VCH) offences in some broad classes – I do not think those were closed classes. These included road rage, secret society members, fighting, racial, religiously-aggravated VCH cases. The Senior Parliamentary Secretary then in the round-up speech mentioned that, I will quote what he said, “post-amendment we can assess if there is a need to create a more expedited framework for the resolution of other types of VCH cases and if this can be done without compromising due process or compromising the delivery of Police response to other more serious offences”.

I would just like to confirm whether the Ministry has considered looking at VCH offences, the section 321 type of offences, the non-arrestable offences, in a more variated manner so that we can take expedited action in the appropriate cases.

Mr K Shanmugam: Thank you. That question actually highlights one of the more involved discussions that MHA has been having, with me involved. Let me put it this way. Voluntarily causing hurt, as Mr Singh would know, it can cover a broad ambit. Let me give a couple of examples.

You are in a supermarket. Someone goes past you and push you. Let us leave out the sexual part of it – just two men. He pushed you aggressively. That is at one level. You did not feel hurt, nothing, but he should not have pushed you. You go and file a Police report.

On the other end of the scale, could be a more serious assault which does not result in grievous hurt – because then, it would be voluntarily causing grievous hurt – but nevertheless, leaves you in a state of shock.

It is quite clear the second category — I mean, we talk about Singapore being a safe society. My position to the Police has been that those sorts of cases, you want to be able to walk in the streets, feeling safe. You need to know that if there is that kind of conduct, that will end up in court. But if you start taking every assault to court, I do not think we are doing justice as a society either. Because you will get into a detailed involved assessment of intent, cause.

I think the intent of your question then and now, Mr Singh, is that the criminal law is not the best solution for these cases. It should be dealt with through other ways, without undermining the rule of law. We agree. There are some internal frameworks for the Police to try and assess that and deal with it. If the Police try to deal every single case of police report on voluntarily causing hurt, it would be an impossible situation. And I do not think we will be better off as a society either.

So, there is a framework to try and deal with this. Of course, people who are not happy, there are other routes, as the Member knows as well; through a magistrate’s route as well.

If you want more details of how we work it, to the extent that it is possible to give it, because we do not want people gaming it either, I am happy to share the details.

Ministry of Home Affairs
5 March 2021

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