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Shanmugam rejects idea by WP’s Jamus Lim to expunge records of ex-offenders’ non-violent crimes for employment purposes

SINGAPORE — Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam has rejected a suggestion by Member of Parliament (MP) Jamus Lim that the criminal records of ex-offenders convicted of non-violent crimes could be removed “for employment purposes”.

Law Minister K Shanmugam (pictured) said that the Government’s approach to helping ex-offenders is through rehabilitation and helping them find jobs, and that this is done in a “transparent manner”.

Law Minister K Shanmugam (pictured) said that the Government’s approach to helping ex-offenders is through rehabilitation and helping them find jobs, and that this is done in a “transparent manner”.

SINGAPORE — Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam has rejected a suggestion by Member of Parliament (MP) Jamus Lim that the criminal records of ex-offenders convicted of non-violent crimes could be removed “for employment purposes”.

Writing in a Facebook post on Thursday (Feb 4), Mr Shanmugam said that the Government’s approach to helping ex-offenders is through rehabilitation and helping them find jobs, and that this is done in a “transparent manner”. 

In a parliamentary question on Tuesday, Dr Lim from the Workers' Party, who is MP for Sengkang Group Representation Constituency, asked whether the Government would expand the Yellow Ribbon project so that ex-offenders of non-violent crimes — “upon an extended period of good behaviour following successful reintegration in society” — could be eligible for the “elimination of the criminal history” from public records.

This would mean that they would not have to report the record when looking for a job.

In his post on Thursday, Mr Shanmugam said that there are many offences that are serious but “may not necessarily involve physical violence”.

These include sexual grooming, outrage of modesty, criminal breach of trust as well as theft in dwelling, he said.

Mr Shanmugam highlighted the recent case of British citizen Richard Christopher Monks, who on Monday pleaded guilty to one count of molesting a minor under 14. 

The 29-year-old educator was working as a reading specialist at a language training and literacy centre here when he repeatedly molested a three-year-old girl in 2018.

“If (Dr Lim’s) suggestion is taken up, it means that this man can continue to work with children without employers being informed of his record. Would Singaporean parents be comfortable with this?” Mr Shanmugam asked.

He added: “It also means, for example, that an offender convicted of housebreaking could be employed as a security officer in a condominium, without his employers knowing of his record. Such an approach may not be wise.”

Mr Shanmugam stressed that the Government’s approach is to help offenders rehabilitate and then find jobs.

“They have to be given second chances. But this is done in a transparent manner,” he said.

In his written reply to Dr Lim’s suggestion on Tuesday, Mr Shanmugam had asked the opposition MP to clarify what he had meant when he mentioned “non-violent crime”. 

“The member may wish to note that his suggestion, prima facie, appears to be that records of such crimes should be expunged, which will in turn mean that ex-offenders could be employed in roles such as preschool teachers or security officers, without their employers being aware of their history,” Mr Shanmugam stated then, adding that the Government's framework to rehabilitate and find employment for most offenders "is being constantly refined".

“The member can make a more detailed suggestion, if he wishes, and the Government will consider his suggestions,” Mr Shanmugam said then.

In a Facebook post on Friday, Dr Lim responded that the purpose of his parliamentary question was not to propose a comprehensive policy, but rather to open up a conversation about crime and rehabilitation, "to understand the nuances of the current policy stance, and to enquire if there is room for us to expand the scope of an existing program".

He said his question had been inspired by his experience with some residents trying to obtain security jobs, such as being a guard at a condominium or shopping mall, but who were ruled out due to a glue-sniffing or petty theft offence, perpetrated in their youth.

"There is an obvious risk from allowing a recalcitrant offender to take on jobs where they could pose a renewed danger to society," Dr Lim noted. "At the same time, there is also a risk that permanent labels to ex-offenders who have remained crime-free could inadvertently promote recidivism or jeopardise their successful reintegration into society."

He added: "Admittedly, there may need to be certain exceptions; for example, those convicted of sex crimes should not work with children as suggested by the Minister, or substance abuse with pharmaceuticals, or drunk driving with transport. I am certain that additional conditions, such as these, would be of value, and should be considered by the Ministry."

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K Shanmugam Jamus Lim Yellow Ribbon MHA crime Jobs

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