Domestic Violence Law in Singapore

Domestic Violence Law in Singapore

According to the statistics recorded by the Ministry of Social and Family Development, domestic violence against women has ranged from 74-76% from 2012 to 2016, while domestic violence against men has ranged from 24-25% in the same period.

Domestic (family) violence is the unlawful physical, mental, and emotional stress or injury placed on one family member by another. According to Section 64 of the Women’s Charter, domestic violence includes the following:

  • Wilfully or knowingly placing, or attempting to place, a family member in fear or pain;
  • Causing pain to a family member by doing something that is known to be hurtful;
  • Wilfully restraining a family member against his or her will;
  • Knowing that your harassment is causing distress to a family member and thinking it acceptable.

Punishment for Abusive non-Family Members

If a person is hurt by someone who is not their family member (e.g. an intimate partner who is not a spouse), he or she may report the offence to the police or take out a private summons against the offender. If the injuries are minor, the relevant offence is that of Hurt. The punishment may be imprisonment up to 2 years and fine up to $5,000 according to Section 323 of the Penal Code. Where the injuries are major (e.g. broken bones, loss of senses), the relevant offence is that of Grievous Hurt. The punishment may be imprisonment up to 10 years, fine or caning (Section 325).

If you are in this situation, you may want to seek legal advice soon. Hurt and Grievous Hurt are tricky matters, and support from a legal team may be the edge you need to prove the necessary legal elements of the offence or to achieve the necessary protection that you need.

Punishment for Abusive Family-Members

Someone being domestically abused can apply for a Personal Protection Order (PPO). A PPO is an order that prevents the abuser (i.e. the Respondent) from using violence against the applicant (i.e. the Complainant). The Complainant can apply for a PPO against a family member who is related to him or her in the following ways:

  • Spouse or former spouse;
  • Child (adopted child or stepchild);
  • Parents;
  • In-laws;
  • Siblings;
  • Any relative who the court may regard as a member of your family.

Present the Evidence

The following are examples of witnesses that you may be able to call upon: a friend, family member, children, an emergency room nurse, a doctor, a stranger who saw or heard the commotion, a law enforcement officer…etc.

Evidence to be presented to the Court to support your claim

The evidence that you can present to the Court to substantiate your claim may contain the following:

  • Testimony in court (from you or your witnesses)
  • Medical reports of injuries of the abuse
  • Police reports for when you or a witness called the police,
  • Dated pictures of your injuries
  • Anything else that might help convince the judge that you are in that type of relationship.

When a Judge has strong reason to believe that there is domestic violence within the family and that the Complainant needs to be protected, he or she will make a protection order. In the order, the Court may provide for such orders as the Court thinks fit, having regarded all the circumstances of the case, including any one or more of the following orders:

  • The granting of the right of living alone to the protected person even if the shared home is independently owned or leased by the person against whom the order is made or if the shared home is jointly owned or leased by the parties
  • Referring the Respondent or the Complainant or the child(ren) to attend counselling
  • The giving of any direction that is needed for the proper execution of any of the orders

Notably, the Judge may write a provision that the person against whom the order is made (the Respondent) may not incite or assist any other person to commit family violence against the protected person.

The Application

To begin filing for a PPO, the Complainant can either go to the Family Justice Courts, the Centre for Promoting Alternatives to Violence [PAVE], TRANS SAFE Centre or Care Corner Project StART to submit an application.

In this first step, he or she files an originating summons and an affirmed affidavit. The Complainant may wish to bring along any relevant material. At this time, the Complainant can also apply for a Domestic Exclusion Order (DEO), in which the Respondent cannot enter the Complainant’s home.

Once the application is accepted, the Duty Judge will then conduct a summons for the Respondent and fix a Court hearing date. While the Complainant is waiting for the hearing, he or she will be eligible for a temporary PPO, or Expedited Order (EO), if the Duty Judge thinks the Complainant is in danger of being hurt by the Respondent.

What can you do if you are afraid to see the one who hurt you at Court?

If the Complainant is afraid to see the Respondent in Court, he or she may have a family member or friend to accompany him or her to Court. If no one is able to accompany the Complainant to Court, he or she may discuss alternative arrangements with the counsellors at the Protection Order Services.

After the trial, which typically takes a few hours, one day or longer, and “upon satisfaction on a balance of probabilities that family violence has been committed or is likely to be committed against a family member and that it is necessary for the protection of the family member,” the Judge makes the PPO. At this time, the Complainant can also apply for a Domestic Exclusion Order (DEO), in which the Respondent cannot enter the Complainant’s home.

At the time he or she is submitting the application, the Complainant can choose to submit one of the following packages:

  • PPO
  • DEO
  • PPO and EO
  • PPO and DEO
  • PPO, EO and DEO

If you, as the Complainant, are unhappy with the outcome of the hearing, you may appeal the matter to a High Court.

What happens if the person violates the Court Order?

If the Respondent violates the Court orders, the Complainant needs to notify the police, who will then choose whether to investigate the matter and whether to charge the Respondent for doing so. Under Section 65 of the Women’s Charter, a breach of a PPO or DEO is a criminal offence. The first offence is punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and/or by a jail term of up to 6 months. A second or subsequent offence is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and/or a jail term of up to 12 months.

Can you change or cancel the PPO, EO or DEO?

Yes you can, if you need to change or cancel the PPO, EO and/or DEO, you can visit the Protection Order Services unit in the Family and Juvenile Court Building.

How We Can Help

Should you need any legal assistance in this space, please feel free to contact our team of lawyers either via email at [email protected] or call us at +65 6298 2537.

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