Juvenile Crimes in Singapore: Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child

“This is not my mother *expletive deleted* fault, I swear,” swears a 14-year old youth as he hurls out an OFO bike from the 30th storey of a flat in Whampoa. Nobody was hurt from the incident, and the boy has since been arrested for his involvement ‘in a case of rash act.’

However, this incident has led many netizens to question the rationality and judgement of our youths nowadays. While we realize that they are still growing up, it doesn’t change the fact that criminal incidents involving youths have begun to feature regularly on social media. As of 2015, the Home Team Annual Statistics have shown an increase of youth crimes over the years, mostly in rioting and outrage of modesty cases.

As a parent, you will naturally be worried that your child might have gone down the wrong path. For all you know, they might have been doing unlawful acts behind your back. They may or may not be doing this, but one thing is for certain, you should know what you might be dealing with in terms of the law. In the event that your child has been detained or are at risk of one, this article might be for you.

Is my Child a Juvenile?

A ‘Juvenile’ as defined by The Children and Young Persons Act (CYPA) is someone who is between the age of 7 years old and above and below the age of 16 years. Hence, ‘juveniles’ within these age ranges may be brought before the Juvenile Court if they had committed any crimes.

What this means is that any person who is under the age of 7 years old is immune from criminal liability as per section 83 of the Penal Code. Anyone between the ages of 7 years and below that of 12 however, will not be criminally liable for their actions if they have not ‘attained sufficient maturity of understanding to judge the nature and consequence of his conduct on that occasion,’ as per section 84 of the Penal Code.

What is a Juvenile Court?

The Juvenile Court handles youth related offences such as rioting, theft, extortion, unlawful assembly and gang-related activities to name a few.

Unfortunately, the age that the Juvenile Court bases their judgement on will be at the age he or she will be on the day of the hearing and not the date when the offence was committed. As such, it is entirely possible for a Juvenile who was 15 years of age when they committed the offence but be charged in an adult Court if the case was heard after he had turned 16.

What Happens When My Child is Not a Juvenile?

Those who are aged between 16 and 21 years old are considered as young adults, and their charges will be heard by a Court of the appropriate jurisdiction other than a Youth Court. The sentences will, however, vary as opposed to someone who is above 21 years old committing the crime. The Singapore Courts acknowledges the fact that young offenders are in their formative years and the odds for them reform and rehabilitate into law-abiding adults are higher. Leniency is often shown to younger offenders.

Court Intervention

Unless the juvenile in question has been charged with an offence triable only in a High Court, the cases will be heard in the Youth Courts. Capital offences such as drug trafficking and murder, or if you had been jointly charged with another person who is above 16 years of age will be trialled in a High Court.

It must be noted that if your child is below 18 years of age, he cannot be sentenced to death even if they are convicted of a capital offence, but he/she will instead be sentenced to life imprisonment instead (Section 314 of the Criminal Procedure Code).

One such example is the infamous case of PP v Anthony Ler Wee Teang and Another, where a 15-year-old abetted a murder. The juvenile was sentenced to a detained at the discretion of the President.

What Happens When my Child Gets Arrested?

If your child has been arrested, it is likely that all matters related to the offence will be decided in the Juvenile Courts. If he or she is proven to be guilty of the offence, a probation officer will be brought in to interview and survey your child. Their general conduct, home environment and conditions, school performance and any other relevant matters will be taken down. This report by the probation officer will help the Judge decide on a Dispositional Order later on.

What is a Dispositional Orders?

A Dispositional Orders are plans that will assist the offenders in rehabilitation and also serves as a deterrence and punishment. It can range from carrying out community service to granting a probation order which places your child under the supervision of a Probation Officer. In more severe cases, they would be sent to places of detention such as a Boy’s Home.

Also, if your child is in the age range of 14 and above to below the age of 16, and have previously been sent to a juvenile rehabilitation centre, and if the Youth Courts are satisfied that it is appropriate to their reformation that they undergo a period of training in a reformative training centre, they will be sent for reformative training.

Will My Child Go to Jail?

Depending on how severe the crime is, your child might be sentenced to jail time and caning only if he is above the age of 16.

If your child is below the age of 10 years, the Court will not send your child to a juvenile rehabilitation centre, a remand home or a place of detention, unless the Court finds that such a place would benefit them, but this is unlikely.

Any ages in between would most likely see them in a place of detention, dependent on the severity of the crime.

Will His Record Remain After He or She is Released?

If your child had received a probation, it is not considered a conviction and thus will not count as a criminal record.

If they had been charged for minor crimes, the criminal record will be considered to have ‘become spent’ once the person has satisfied a crime-free period of not less than five consecutive years from the date the sentenced was passed or the date of release from prison.

These minor crimes would include offences such as stealing from a convenience store or participating in violent acts such as rioting.

What Programs Are Out There To Help My Child?

Initiatives such as the Progress Presentation Review (PPR) is a mode of review of how the youth has progressed under probation orders. It is conducted in the form of a presentation by the youth, highlighting their progress over the 3-4 month of probation.

The Guidance Programme is also another outlet for your child. The program targets youths aged between 10 and 19 who commit minor crimes – like theft. It comprises 21 sessions over the course of 6 months which educates youth offenders to recognise their offence as a criminal act and in turn rehabilitate them.

What Should I do as Parent?

It is important for you to show support to your child in this troubling times. More than anything, they will need your care and concern in dealing with these circumstances. You should also do your best to assist with your child’s caseworker. Going for parenting workshops and seminars as well as attending counselling sessions with your family might be beneficial in helping you through this tough period.

How Can We Help You

You will need professional legal advice to get through this tough period. Criminal matters involving youths may get complicated and too technical for you to go through alone. Worry not, at I.R.B. Law; we have experienced Criminal Litigation Lawyers who are passionate about justice and fairness. Our lawyers will be able to guide you through Singapore’s Criminal Justice System and every stage of the proceedings.

We firmly believe that everyone should be entitled to a second chance and be allowed the opportunity to turn over a new leaf and live life anew. Should you be in a position where you may need our assistance, please do not hesitate and contact us at Hello@irblaw.com.sg or call us at 6589 8913 so that we can advise you on your matter.