Assaulting a Public Servant in Singapore

Photo by: The Straits Times


A 57-year-old man was recently arrested for grabbing the arm of a National Environment Agency (NEA) officer when asked for his particulars after he was caught smoking under a covered walkway. Four NEA officers approached him, and one confronted him regarding smoking in a non-smoking area; the man refused to give his particulars and “forcefully grabbed” the arm of the officer. The man has been arrested for using criminal force against a public servant to deter him from performing his duties.


It is important to note that the Singapore Government takes crimes against public servants very seriously, especially when it occurs with the intent to hamper their ability to carry out their duties.


What is Criminal Use of Force?

The criminal use of force is a serious charge under Section 350 of the Penal Code and is defined as occurring in the following situations:
• A person intentionally uses force towards another person without that person’s consent to commit an offence or
• intends to, through the use of the illegal force, cause or have the knowledge that the use of force will cause injury, fear or annoyance.


What is Assault?

Assault under section 351 of the Penal Code is similar to criminal force and usually, goes hand in hand with it. Assault is said to be committed where a person makes a gesture or preparation intending or knowing that it will cause the victim to apprehend or realise that the offender is going to apply criminal force.


According to section 352, a person that assaults or uses criminal force will face imprisonment for three months and/or a fine of up to S$1500.00.


What are the different types of criminal force?

Under the Penal Code, Criminal force is punishable for the following offences:
• General punishment for criminal force (section 353)
• Assault or criminal force to deter a public servant from discharge of his duty (section 353)
• Assault or criminal force to a person with intent to outrage modesty (section 354)
• Assault or criminal force with the intent to dishonour a person (section 355)
• Assault or criminal force in committing or attempting to commit theft from a person (section 356)
• Assault or criminal force in attempting to confine a person (section 357) wrongfully
• Assaulting or using criminal force on grave or sudden provocation (section 358)


What laws in Singapore governs the use of criminal force against public servants?

The Singapore Government views offences that prevent a public servant from lawfully carrying out his or her duties very seriously, including using force with the intention of preventing them from doing their job. Assault or criminal force to deter a public servant from discharge of his duty is charged under section 353 of the Penal Code. This is punishable by a maximum of 4 years imprisonment and/or a fine.


Is the Singapore Courts stricter about crimes committed against public servants?

Of the various types of criminal force offenses listed above, one of the higher penalties is meted out to people convicted of assault or criminal force to deter a public servant from discharge of his/her duty (section 353). The penalty for this is imprisonment for a maximum of 4 years and/or a fine. This is a much higher penalty than the general punishment for use of criminal force, which is a maximum of 3 months and/or a fine of S$1500.00.


What about other crimes against public servants in Singapore?

Under Section 332 of the Penal Code, voluntarily causing hurt to deter a public servant from his or her duty is a punishable offence. If convicted of this offence, you can receive a maximum sentence of 7 years and/or a fine and/or caning.


Section 6 of the Protection from Harassment Act sets out threatening, abusing or insulting a public servant or public service worker as a punishable offence. If convicted, you can receive a maximum of 12 months’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to S$5000.00.


In Public Prosecutor v Theyvasigamani [2015], the accused received 15 months’ imprisonment for committing offences under sections 353 and 332 of the Penal Code as well as section 6 of the Protection from Harassment Act. His behaviour towards three paramedics who were attending to him got him charged under section 353 of the Penal Code for spitting at a public servant doing his job, section 332 for punching a public servant doing his job and section 6 of the Protection from Harassment Act for abusing a group of public servants using vulgar and racist language while they were doing their job.


How can we help?

Singapore regards offences regarding crimes against public servants such as the criminal use of force and assault very seriously and strives to ensure that public servants are able to perform their service without harassment.


At I.R.B. Law LLP we believe that everyone deserves fair representation in a difficult time. We haveknowledgeable lawyers who are well-versed in Singapore Criminal Law proceedings. If you find yourself accused of offences related to criminal force or assault, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at [email protected] or call at 6589 8913 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced lawyers today.


The information contained in this article is provided for general information only and may not reflect current status about applicable law, cases, settlements or judgements. Nothing contained on this website or article is intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be construed as I.R.B Law LLP agreeing to provide legal services to you. You acknowledge and agree that your use of this website shall not create a lawyer-client relationship with I.R.B Law LLP.