Protection from Harassment Court to be established on June 1, as new laws take effect
\SINGAPORE — Victims of various forms of harassment will have an easier time seeking legal relief when a specialised court dedicated to dealing with harassment matters opens on Tuesday (June 1), the Ministry of Law (MinLaw) and the State Courts said on Monday. Such cases would include sexual, workplace and online harassment and that between neighbours.
- A new court to handle harassment cases will feature simplified processes for victims
- Victims may file a claim online anytime
- Hearings will be conducted more quickly
- The aim is for Expedited Protection Order applications with a risk of violence or actual violence to be heard within 24 hours, for instance
SINGAPORE — Victims of various forms of harassment will have an easier time seeking legal relief when a specialised court dedicated to dealing with harassment matters opens on Tuesday (June 1), the Ministry of Law (MinLaw) and the State Courts said on Monday. Such cases would include sexual, workplace and online harassment and that between neighbours.
The establishment of the Protection from Harassment Court was earlier announced by Mr Edwin Tong, then Senior Minister of State for Law, when changes to the Protection from Harassment Act (Poha) were debated in 2019.
The changes, which were passed in Parliament in May 2019, will take effect from Tuesday as well. The changes were targeted at streamlining procedures for victims of online bullying and harassment, and to tackle offences such as doxxing, which is to publish someone else’s personal information with the intention to harass, threaten or facilitate violence against them.
Right now, victims making certain types of applications — such as a Protection Order (PO), to prohibit a perpetrator from harassing the victim, and orders relating to falsehoods — would have to file originating summons with a supporting affidavit in person.
With the new court, they may file a claim online anytime by logging into the State Courts’ Community Justice and Tribunals System, an online filing and case management system.
Claims may come under this simplified track as long as they:
Involve only one claimant and no more than five respondents
Were submitted within two years from the date that the harassment took place
Do not include a claim for damages exceeding S$20,000
SPEED OF HEARINGS
Hearings will also be conducted more quickly, MinLaw and the State Courts said.
The Protection from Harassment Court has set the following targets for various types of cases to be heard:
Within 24 hours for Expedited Protection Order (EPO) applications with a risk of violence or actual violence
Within 48 to 72 hours for EPO applications with no violent element
Within four weeks for ordinary PO applications
Respondents may also choose to initiate an online negotiation process to try to reach an amicable settlement with a claimant on the Community Justice and Tribunals System.
TYPES OF CASES THAT MAY NOT BE HEARD
The Protection from Harassment Court may transfer cases to the other courts such as the District Court, Magistrate’s Court or the Family Court.
This mechanism recognises that harassment may occur against the backdrop of other ongoing proceedings, such as divorce proceedings, and would thus be more justly, expeditiously and economically dealt with in another court.
However, while cases may be transferred between the Protection from Harassment Court and the District Court or Magistrate’s Court from Tuesday, the transfer of cases with the Family Court will only be operationalised at a later date.
Removing the need for victims to relive their experience more than necessary: If a respondent has been convicted of any crime under the Act or hurt-related offence against the victim, the requirement to show that a provision in the law has been contravened — usually necessary before a PO can be granted — will be deemed satisfied.
Powers of arrest: In egregious cases of hurt or harassment, judges granting EPOs will now be required to consider whether a criminal investigation is warranted and, if warranted, refer cases to the police for investigation. In addition, breaches of POs or EPOs will be allow for the arrests of suspects in prescribed scenarios such as where hurt is caused.
Enhanced protection: POs and EPOs will be extended to protect persons related to the victim, as these persons may also be harassed by the same perpetrator. A domestic exclusion order is an order restraining harassers from entering their house or parts of the house. Since this order may be granted as part of a PO, it will ensure better protection for victims who may live in the same residence as the harasser.