Comprehensive Article on the Recent Assault Case in Clementi and Principles of Self-Defence Law in Singapore

Comprehensive Article on the Recent Assault Case in Clementi and Principles of Self-Defence Law in Singapore

Incident Overview:

On June 22, 2023, a 47-year-old managing director, assaulted a 38-year-old man at a Clementi restaurant. The altercation began when the man asked the Accused and his associates for a cigarette and attempted to join their conversation. After being told to leave multiple times, the man returned and slapped the Accused lightly. The Accused retaliated by repeatedly punching and kicking the man until his face was bloody. The incident was captured on CCTV, and the Accused was subsequently fined S$4,000 for voluntarily causing hurt.

Legal Proceedings:

  • Court Hearing: The Accused pleaded guilty to the charge of voluntarily causing hurt.
  • Prosecution’s Argument: Although the victim provoked the Accused, the prosecution argued that the Accused’s response was grossly disproportionate.
  • Mitigation: The Accused’s defence highlighted his remorse and shame over the incident. The court imposed a fine of S$4,000.

Principles of Self-Defence in Singapore Law:

In Singapore, self-defence is governed by several provisions under the Penal Code, primarily aimed at ensuring that any force used in self-defence is reasonable and proportionate to the threat faced. Here are the key principles and legal provisions related to self-defence in Singapore:

1. Reasonable Force:

  • Under Section 96 of the Penal Code, an individual is allowed to use reasonable force to protect themselves or others from unlawful force. The assessment of “reasonable force” depends on the circumstances and the perceived threat at the moment.

2. Right of Private Defence:

  • The right of private defence extends to protecting one’s body and property. According to Section 97 of the Penal Code, individuals can defend themselves or others against any offense that could cause physical harm.

3. Proportionality of Force:

  • The force used in self-defence must be proportionate to the threat faced. Excessive force beyond what is necessary to neutralize the threat can result in criminal liability.

4. Aggressor Rule:

  • If a person initiates a conflict, they cannot claim self-defence. This rule ensures that the right of self-defence is not misused by aggressors to justify their violent actions.

5. Exceptions and Special Cases:

  • There are specific provisions for cases where the defender is dealing with individuals who are of unsound mind, intoxicated, or minors (below 12 years old), where the right of private defence can still be exercised under certain conditions.

6. Defending Property:

  • Individuals may have the right to defend their property against theft, robbery, mischief, and criminal trespass, provided the force used is necessary and proportionate.

7. Legal Consequences:

  • Self-defence claims are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. If the force used is deemed excessive, the defender can be charged with assault or other relevant offenses. The courts will consider various factors, including the nature of the threat, the level of force used, and the defender’s state of mind.

Case Studies and Statistics:

  • Case Study of Reasonable Force: In one notable case, a defendant successfully claimed self-defence after using reasonable force to fend off an assailant. The court ruled in favor of the defendant, recognizing his right to protect himself.
  • Case Study of Excessive Force: Conversely, another case involved a defendant who used excessive force, resulting in the death of the attacker. The court found the defendant guilty of manslaughter due to the disproportionate use of force.


The recent incident involving the Accused serves as a reminder of the importance of proportionality and reasonableness in self-defence. While the right to defend oneself is protected under Singapore law, it is crucial to ensure that the force used is appropriate to the threat faced. Individuals must be aware of the legal boundaries and seek legal advice when necessary to navigate the complexities of self-defence laws in Singapore.

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