While it is in the public’s interest to impose tough punishment on offenders of serious crimes in order to maintain the peace and order we enjoy in Singapore, there are wider alternatives available for less serious crimes. The punishment must fit the particular offence and the offender. As such this article will explain to you the various sentencing options available.
Some offences carry a mandatory imprisonment term while others do not. In the latter situation, the Court has the discretion whether to impose an imprisonment term or not. An imprisonment term is a form of curtailment of liberty of the offender as it means that he will be spending a period of time in prison. The length will depend on the severity of the offence and will be within the sentencing range prescribed in the relevant statute such as the Penal Code. When an imprisonment term has been sentenced to an offender, the date of commencement can be backdated to the date he first got remanded in prison. However, in a situation where the offender was released on bail prior to the passing of his sentence, the Court may order the sentence to commence at a later date.
Fines in Singapore
Fines may be imposed as an alternative to imprisonment or for some offences, fines can also be imposed in addition to an imprisonment term. This depends on the type and severity of the offence. In the event that an offender is not able to pay up or fails to pay the fine imposed on him and he, therefore, defaulted payment of the fine, he will be sent to prison and must serve a sentence of imprisonment in default of the fine. The length of imprisonment for default payment of fine will also depend on the type and severity of the offence.
Caning may be ordered on a discretionary or mandatory basis, as specified in the relevant statute. However, caning only applies to male offenders below the age of 50. There are instances where men who have been declared unfit for caning are also exempted from caning. Thus, a court has the power to impose additional imprisonment term if the offender is, a female, who by virtue of her gender is exempted from caning, a male above the age of 50 years old or a male who has been certified unfit for caning.
Corrective training only applies to an offender who is above 18 years old, is a repeat offender who has been imprisoned previously and who is also suitable to receive this corrective training. Although corrective training involves a period of incarceration in prison, it is considered as a separate regime from an imprisonment sentence. Corrective training lasts from 5 to 14 years. The Court may order an offender to undergo corrective training instead of imprisonment term when it is of the view that the particular offender requires training of a corrective character or nature for a long period of time. The purpose is to push the offender for reform and also to prevent the commission of the crime.
Similar to corrective training, preventive detention only applies to an offender who is a repeat offender who has been imprisoned previously and is suitable to go through this preventive detention. However, preventive detention only applies to offenders who are 30 years old and above. Preventive detention is similar to corrective training as it also involves ordering offenders to be incarcerated but it is treated as a separate regime from an imprisonment sentence. However, preventive detention involves a longer period of incarceration which lasts for 7 to 20 years. The purpose of preventive detention is to prevent the offender from committing an offence. The Court may impose preventive detention if it finds that the offender should be kept isolated from the public to protect the public from him.
Probation is typically ordered on young offenders below the age of 21. The decision of whether to place an offender on probation will depend on the nature and severity of the offence, the character and living environment of the offender, the offender’s propensity to reform, the familial support of the offender, the offender’s risk of re-offending and the risk of breaching the conditions of probation. Further, a report prepared by a probation officer must be taken into consideration. During the probation period, the offender will be supervised by a probation officer for a period of 6 months to 3 years. The offender will still be able to carry out his daily activities freely. Importantly, however, he must not re-offend and must strictly abide by the conditions imposed on his probation such as being home by the curfew time. An offender who breaches any of the probation conditions may face dire consequences. The probation order may be revoked and the court may sentence the offender to a fine or imprisonment, depending on the type of punishments prescribed for the particular offence.
Reformative training is only available for offenders below 21 years old. However, reformative training is more onerous than probation as the offender needs to be detained in a structured environment for at least 18 months. The offender will be constrained by a strict schedule. The Court will consider, among other factors, the severity of the offence in order to decide between probation or reformative training for the particular offender.
The various types of community sentences are as follows:
- Community Work Order: The Court may order an offender to carry out community work that has nexus with his offence, under supervision, for a period of time.
- Community Service Order: The Court may order an offender to carry out various community service under supervision, for a period of time.
- Short Detention Order: The Court may order an offender to be detained for a short period of about 1 week. This aims to deter re-offending and will not dislodge the offender from his commitment.
- Mandatory Treatment Order: The Court may order an offender to undergo psychiatric treatment for a maximum period of 2 years. Mandatory Treatment Order applies to offenders who are suffering from a treatable psychiatric condition and are agreeable to receiving treatment.
- Day Reporting Order: The Court may order an offender to regularly report to the relevant authority for a period of time for supervision and counselling.
Disqualification from driving
The Court may make an order for the disqualification of an offender’s driving licence for a period of time when he commits road traffic offences governed by the Road Traffic Act and/or any other written law.