Adultery Law in Singapore

Adultery in Singapore is defined as the voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and someone who is not his/her spouse. It can be leveraged as a legitimate reason for filing for divorce, under the grounds of ‘irretrievable breakdown of marriage’. Due to the fact that claims of adultery could indeed be untrue, the Singapore courts will place a heavy emphasis on seeing clear proof that your spouse has been unfaithful.

Typically this would require your spouse to admit to the claim of adultery or irrefutable evidence that the other party has been having an affair. Generally speaking, you must apply for divorce within 6 months of becoming aware of the other parties infidelity.

If you have recently discovered that your spouse is cheating on you. Before wrestling with that decision, focus first on what you should not do. Most people allow fear, anger, hurt, or a desire for revenge overwhelming them to do things they later regret; things that may be against the law.

This article will keep you from making a mistake that could sabotage the course of action you eventually decide to take. Regardless of whether you choose to leave your spouse or salvage the marriage. Doing the wrong thing at the outset will only make a bad situation worse.

Don’t – Voluntarily cause hurt

In an article published in The Straits Times in 2013, Social worker Terence Yow interviewed 227 individuals who sought help at counselling centres and family service centres after learning that their spouses were unfaithful. Men with cheating wives made up almost one in four of those he studied.

His finding supports observations by divorce lawyers and marital counsellors who are seeing more men with unfaithful wives. Many lived with suspicions of infidelity for an average of almost two years. Dr Yow said this shows that people try to cope with their pain on their own and seek help only when they cannot bear it anymore. He found that more than 8 in 10 of those surveyed were “severely distressed” by the spouse’s affair, were depressed or even had suicidal thoughts. A certain few, however, resort to darker means.

For example, 23-year-old Aloysius Tang Bo Hui confronted his wife and punched her all over her body during a heated dispute upon the suspicion of an extra-marital affair. On November 28, 2017, the 23-year-old was jailed for six weeks after he admitted to punching his wife, 20, in the back of her head, jaw, buttock, abdomen and arm.

The potential penalties for voluntarily causing hurt

“Hurt” is defined in section 319 of the Penal Code as “bodily pain, disease or infirmity”. The charge can arise in a variety of situations, such as hitting somebody with an object and causing physical pain or pushing somebody, causing them to fall and get hurt.

Voluntarily causing hurt is a different offence, however, from voluntarily causing grievous hurt, which is codified in section 322. The distinction between the two offences is that grievous hurt is a more severe form of hurt.

If found guilty of voluntarily causing hurt, the punishment is imprisonment up to 2 years and/or a fine up to S$5,000. However, if the defendant can prove that the hurt was voluntarily caused by provocation, the punishment will be less severe, consisting of imprisonment up to 3 months and/or fine up to S$2,500. An affair, however, will not constitute a provocation.

The Penal Code also sets out different types of voluntarily causing hurt and voluntarily causing grievous hurt; with examples set out below.

Don’t – Threaten to or try to murder your spouse

In Aloysius Tang’s case, a second charge of threatening to kill her was taken into consideration in sentencing. The court heard that Tang confronted his wife over her extramarital affair at about 10.30pm on April 26, and they got into a heated argument. During the dispute, he used his fist to punch her in the back of her head and her jaw.

When she tried to avoid him by climbing onto the bed, he punched her in various parts of her body. When she left the room and tried to leave, he slammed the main door closed. She tried again, but he pulled her arm to drag her away from the door. He said in Mandarin that he would kill her if she tried to open the door.

Apart from threatening to kill one’s spouse, voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means could lead to imprisonment up to 7 years and/or a fine and/or a caning. Any combination of such punishments is possible. Here, “dangerous weapons or means” could include:

  • An instrument for shooting, stabbing or cutting (e.g. a knife or a pair of scissors)
  • A device which is likely to cause death when used as a weapon of offence
  • Using fire or any heated substance (e.g. scalding someone with boiling water)
  • Using any explosive substance
  • Using any substance which is harmful to inhale, swallow or be injected into the blood (e.g. faeces or urine)
  • Using an animal (e.g. letting out a dangerous animal)

If found guilty of voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means, the penalty is different due to the more severe nature of grievous hurt where punishment can go up to imprisonment for life or imprisonment up to 15 years with a fine or caning.

Poisoning your spouse

In a controversial case in the United Kingdom last year, lawyer Fred Auston Wortman, 39, poisoned his wife’s toothpaste with a plant-based toxin called Aconitum. In a more substantial amount, it can in fact fatally paralyse the heart. Fred was sentenced to 30 years in prison with the chance of parole after 10 years without formally admitting guilt.

In Singapore, if found guilty of voluntarily causing hurt using poison with intent to commit an offence, the punishment is imprisonment of up to 10 years and perhaps a fine or caning. “Poison” here includes any poison or “any stupefying, intoxicating or unwholesome drug or other things”, according to the Penal Code.

Provocation as a defence

Your spouse having an affair may not constitute enough of defence for provocation. The defence of provocation is entirely dependent on the facts of each case. It is also important to note that the Singapore Courts employ a 2 stage test to consider if the test for provocation can be successfully applied.

  1. The accused has to prove that he was deprived of his self-control by provocation (this is a subjective requirement which turns on the facts of each case); and
  2. The provocation should have been “grave and sudden”, involving the application of the reasonable man test (an objective requirement)

Whether an accused person is deprived of self-control normally depends on the specific facts of each case. The court will decide if the accused had indeed lost his/her self-control as a result of the provocation.

As for the gravity of provocation, the court will use an objective test to determine it. If the provocation was one that the reasonable man, having the same background as the accused, would find grave, then the defence of provocation is likely to be made out.

However, the individual peculiarities of the accused that merely affected his power of self-control, but not the gravity of the provocation will not be taken into account. This is to ensure that the provocation defence is denied to people who overreact simply because they are “exceptionally pugnacious, bad-tempered and over-sensitive.”

How can we help?

If faced with a cheating spouse, do not act recklessly. You may wish instead to seek support from friends and family or seek legal representation to file for divorce. Our first consultation is free.

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