The Application and Eligibility of Mandatory Treatment Orders (MTO) in Singapore

The Application and Eligibility of Mandatory Treatment Orders (MTO) in Singapore


The judicial system in Singapore offers a variety of sentencing options aimed at balancing punishment and rehabilitation. One such option is the Mandatory Treatment Order (MTO), which addresses the needs of offenders with treatable psychiatric conditions. This article delves into the principles governing MTOs, eligibility criteria, and the practical application of these orders, incorporating insights from recent legal discussions and case studies.

Understanding Mandatory Treatment Orders

An MTO is a type of Community-Based Sentence (CBS) that mandates psychiatric treatment for offenders diagnosed with specific mental health conditions. Introduced through amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code in 2010, CBS aims to provide courts with greater flexibility in sentencing, especially for minor offences.

Eligibility and Criteria

To qualify for an MTO, several conditions must be met:

  1. Nature of the Offence: The offence must not carry a fixed sentence by law or a mandatory minimum sentence of imprisonment. It should also not be punishable by more than seven years of imprisonment or result in a permanent criminal record.
  2. Mental Health Condition: The offender must be suffering from a psychiatric condition that is treatable. This condition should have contributed to the commission of the offence, establishing a causal link between the mental disorder and the criminal behavior.
  3. Previous Sentences: The offender must not have been previously sentenced to corrective training or preventive detention.

Legal Framework and Principles

The legal framework for MTOs is primarily established under Sections 339 and 340 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The High Court’s decision in GCX v PP [2019] 3 SLR 1325 provides further guidance on the principles for calling an MTO suitability report. The court should only consider an MTO if there are sufficient facts indicating rehabilitative potential that is not outweighed by other sentencing considerations.

Process and Evaluation

The evaluation process for an MTO involves several steps:

  1. Psychiatric Assessment: Before an MTO can be considered, the court will call for a report from an appointed psychiatrist at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH). The report assesses whether the offender’s condition is treatable, whether they are suitable for treatment, and the likelihood of successful rehabilitation.
  2. Court’s Discretion: The court retains the discretion to determine the duration of the treatment, which can last up to three years. If the offender successfully completes the MTO, the conviction is considered ‘spent,’ meaning the offender will not have a criminal record for that offence.
  3. Compliance and Consequences: The court explains the purpose, effect, and obligations of the MTO to the offender. Failure to comply with the treatment requirements can result in the variation or revocation of the order.

Case Examples

Several cases illustrate the application of MTOs:

Case 1: An offender with bipolar disorder was sentenced to an MTO after stealing a friend’s pet, as the disorder had relapsed, affecting his judgment.

Case 2: A 21-year-old with a history of schizophrenia was given an MTO for stealing an ambulance. The court determined that his mental condition contributed to the offence.

Case 3: A trainee doctor received an MTO for recording videos of men urinating, linked to an adjustment disorder that influenced his actions.

Prosecution’s Perspective

Generally, the Prosecution will not object to calling for an MTO suitability report due to the accused’s mental health condition and rehabilitative potential. The Prosecution reserves its final position on the sentence pending the report’s findings, underscoring the importance of a thorough evaluation before determining the final sentence.


The MTO regime in Singapore is designed to address the root causes of criminal behavior linked to mental health conditions. It provides an alternative to traditional custodial sentences, focusing on rehabilitation and reducing the risk of re-offending. However, the decision to grant an MTO involves a thorough assessment by the courts, ensuring that it is an appropriate and effective measure for the offender in question.

For more detailed information and to explore whether an MTO is applicable to your case, contact expert criminal lawyers in Singapore. They can provide comprehensive legal guidance and support tailored to your specific needs.

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