Voyeurism in Singapore – FAQs

Voyeurism in Singapore – FAQs

Is the Gender of the Victim relevant for a Person to be Charged with Voyeurism?

A person suspected of voyeurism could previously only be prosecuted for insulting a woman’s modesty under section 509 of the Penal Code. If the victim was a man, the accused could not be prosecuted under that provision and had to be charged with a different crime. Singapore’s Penal Code has been modified to include a separate voyeurism offense as of 1 January 2020, to better handle voyeurism incidents. This crime is defined in Section 377BB of the Penal Code, and it is committed regardless of the gender of the victim.

Which Legal Provision explains the Offense of Voyeurism?

Section 377BB of the Penal Code 1871 provides for the various forms of offenses which can be categorized as voyeurism in Singapore.

What are the Different Forms of Offenses that can be Categorized as Voyeurism?

The different forms are:

a) A person purposefully observed the victim doing a private act without his or her consent, knowing or believing that the victim did not consent to be watched.

b) A person used binoculars or other similar equipment to see the victim doing a private act, such as changing attire, without the victim’s consent. Regardless of whether the personal act was filmed, this is done with the knowledge or belief that the victim did not consent to it.

c) A person purposefully filmed the victim performing a private act without his or her consent, knowing or believing that the victim did not consent to the recording being made.

d) Without the victim’s consent and with the knowledge or belief that the victim did not consent, a person used equipment, such as a mobile phone, to enable them or another person to observe the victim’s private parts, such as their genitals, breasts, or buttocks, that would otherwise be hidden. Whether or not the victim’s intimate parts were videotaped is irrelevant.

e) Without the victim’s consent and with the knowledge or belief that the victim did not consent to be recorded, a person captured an image of the victim’s private parts, such as genitals, breasts, or buttocks that would not normally be seen. This is identical to the last case, only that the victim’s privacy was indeed captured.

f) A person placed equipment, such as a camera, by altering a structure or portion of it, such as by modifying the window and/or curtains in the victim’s bedroom, to allow them or someone else to perform any of the actions listed above.

What are the Other Voyeurism-Related Offenses?

The voyeurism related offenses in Singapore are:

a) Distribution of voyeuristic images or recordings
b) Possession of or gaining access to voyeuristic or intimate images or recordings
c) Distribution or threatening to distribute an intimate image or recording

What is the Offense of the Distribution of Voyeuristic Images or Recordings?

If a person intentionally and knowingly possesses an image or recording for distribution or distributes an image or recording of another person without that person’s consent, and they know or have reason to believe that the image or recording was obtained through conduct described in section 377BB, and they know or have reason to believe that the victim does not consent to the distribution, they can be charged with an offense under section 377BC.

What is the Offense of Possession Of or Gaining Access to Voyeuristic or Intimate Images or Recordings?

A person is guilty of an offense under section 377BD if such person has a voyeuristic image or recording in their possession, or they have access to such image or recording of another person, and they know or have reason to believe that such image or recording was obtained through a voyeuristic act, or the possession or access to which is without the consent of the person in the image or recording, and the possession or access is likely to cause humiliation, alarm or distress to the person in the image or recording.

If the picture or recording is in electronic form, a person is considered to have possession if they have control over access to the electronic version of the image or recording, regardless of whether they have physical possession of the image or recording. Viewing or showing the picture on an electronic medium, as well as communicating, delivering, supplying, or transferring the image to oneself, are all examples of “access”.

What is the Offense of Distribution or Threatening to Distribute an Intimate Image or Recording?

Anyone who distributes or threatens to distribute an intimate image or recording of another person without that person’s consent and knows or has reason to believe that the distribution will cause, or is likely to cause, humiliation, alarm, or distress to that person, can be charged under section 377BE. A picture or video of a person’s genitals or anal area, exposed or covered by underwear, a female’s breasts, bare or covered by underwear, or a person performing a private act is considered an “intimate image or recording”. It also includes any photograph or recording that has been edited in any way and seems to reveal any of the foregoing, as long as a reasonable person would assume it depicts the victim’s private parts or the victim performing a private act.

What are some Aggravating Factors that are considered for Sentencing?

Aggravating factors that might lead to the offender receiving a harsher punishment are:

1) Preparation and planning: This entails determining whether the offender’s unlawful activities were planned and deliberate rather than rash and/or carried out on rare occasions. When the criminal has a modus operandi or systematic method for carrying out the crime, it is considered to be intentional and well-thought-out.

2) Time spent committing the crime: The amount of time spent committing the crime is significant since it indicates that the criminal attempted to commit the crime and escape detection.

3) Instruments used in the commission of the crime: An aggravating element is the misuse of advanced technologies, particularly the use of a cell phone as a video-recording device. This is due to the ease with which offenses may be committed and the ability to review videos. The optimization of cameras has made it simpler to conceal them without being detected, encouraging voyeurs to take greater risks in committing voyeurism.

4) The victim’s relationship with the offender: If the offender targets friends or co-workers, it indicates a breach of trust and exploitation of the victims’ relationship, familiarity, and/or confidence in the perpetrator.

What are some Mitigating Factors that are considered for Sentencing?

Mitigating factors that might lead to the offender receiving a softer punishment are:

1) The offender’s psychological state: There are sentencing factors for persons who are proven to have a mental condition, including the kind and amount of the mental disorder’s connection to the crime committed, among other things. If there is proof that the offender, for example, is incapable or primarily unable to control or stop himself from engaging in voyeurism as a result of a mental illness, then punishment is unlikely to be sufficient.
2) An admission of guilt: When driven by real sorrow, contrition, or regret, and/or a willingness to assist in the administration of justice, a guilty plea may be considered. However, if the evidence supports a conviction, it may be of little use.
3) Prior criminal convictions: A clean record may be useful in demonstrating that the offender’s actions were out of character in rare instances. A clean record, on the other hand, may not be much of a mitigating factor if the offender is convicted of a series of crimes over some time because it implies that he was just not detected earlier.

What is the Punishment for Voyeurism?

If convicted of voyeurism, the perpetrator receives up to 2 years in prison, or a fine, caning, or any combination of the three. If the victim is under the age of 14, the perpetrator will be sentenced to up to two years in jail, as well as a fine or caning.

What is the Punishment for the Distribution of Voyeuristic Images or Recordings?

If someone distributes or has voyeuristic content for distribution without the victim’s consent, they can be sentenced to up to 5 years in prison, fined, caned, or any combination of these punishments. If the voyeuristic content involves a victim under the age of 14, the offender will be sentenced to up to 5 years in jail, as well as a fine or caning.

What is the Punishment for Possession Of or Gaining Access to Voyeuristic or Intimate Images or Recordings?

If someone has such voyeuristic or personal photos or videos, they can be sentenced to up to two years in prison, fined, or both. If the victim in the recordings or photos is under the age of 14, the offender will be sentenced to up to two years in jail, as well as a fine or caning.

What is the Punishment for Distribution or Threatening to Distribute an Intimate Image or Recording?

If convicted, a person can face up to 5 years in jail, a fine, caning, or any combination of these punishments. If the victim is under the age of 14, imprisonment is compulsory, as well as a fine or caning.

What are the Defenses Available to the Offenders?

Some defenses available are:

1) The perpetrator had no intention of obtaining or accessing the voyeuristic photographs or videos.
2) The perpetrator did so without intending to harm the alleged victim and with good reason, such as for the sake of investigating an offense or for judicial procedures.

Is Voyeurism an Arrestable Offense?

A suspect can be arrested without a warrant if he or she has committed an arrestable offense. All types of voyeurism are arrestable offenses under Section 377BB. A person who is found watching a victim in a toilet cubicle, for example, can be detained without a warrant. It is up to the police or the court to decide whether or not they should be released on bail once they have been arrested.

Will a Person have a Criminal Record if convicted of Voyeurism?

A voyeurism conviction will result in a criminal record for the offender. However, the criminal record can be wiped clean or spent if certain conditions are satisfied.

What are the Conditions for the Criminal Record to be Wiped Clean?

The conditions are:

  • If imprisonment is imposed, it must be for no longer than 3 months.
  • If a fine is imposed, it must not exceed $2,000 in total.
  • There must be no previous criminal convictions on the record.
  • There must be no previous spent records on the register.

If these requirements are satisfied, the individual must stay crime-free for at least 5 years, beginning with the date of release from prison or the date of conviction.