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Stiffer penalties for breaching personal protection orders, stronger efforts to rehabilitate culprits proposed

SINGAPORE — People who breach personal protection orders (PPOs) should face tougher penalties than they do now, and the rehabilitation system for culprits of family violence should also be strengthened, an inter-agency task force on family violence said on Thursday (Sept 23).

The prevalence of domestic violence in Singapore is also estimated to be between 3 per cent and 20 per cent of the population.

The prevalence of domestic violence in Singapore is also estimated to be between 3 per cent and 20 per cent of the population.

Singapore

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  • A task force on family violence released 16 recommendations on Sept 23
  • It recommends increasing penalties for breaches of personal protection orders
  • It also proposes greater efforts to rehabilitate culprits of family violence
  • The report has been submitted to the Government, which will study the proposals

SINGAPORE — People who breach personal protection orders (PPOs) should face tougher penalties than they do now, and the rehabilitation system for culprits of family violence should also be strengthened, an inter-agency task force on family violence said on Thursday (Sept 23).

The task force, which issued a report with 16 recommendations in all, suggested that PPOs be issued with a rehabilitative order as well, and recommended the setting up of a systematic referral system to help family violence perpetrators stay in a shelter if they have no place to go after being issued a domestic exclusion order.

PPOs restrain a person from committing family violence while domestic exclusion orders prevent one from staying in the same residence as the victim of family violence.

The 21-member task force comprises members from government agencies, social service agencies, non-governmental organisations, the courts and hospitals. Its report has been submitted to the Government.

It was set up in February last year to survey the family violence landscape and come up with recommendations to tackle the growing prevalence of family violence in Singapore.

In its report, the task force noted that the number of new cases of family violence handled by Family Violence Specialist Centres and the Pave Integrated Service for Individual and Family Protection Specialist Centre grew from 891 to 1,103 between 2018 and 2020.

According to literature reviews, the prevalence of domestic violence in Singapore is also estimated to be between 3 per cent and 20 per cent of the population.

While this is lower than regional and global rates, family violence is “undoubtedly an issue of concern” in Singapore, said the task force in its report.

The following are its key recommendations.

REHABILITATION OF PERPETRATORS

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    Allow the courts to compel those who have been issued with a PPO and have mental health conditions to undergo a mandatory assessment or treatment, subject to safeguards such as requiring a recommendation from a court-appointed psychiatrist on the suitability of treatment.

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    All PPOs should come with a rehabilitative order to address and prevent the recurrence of abuse. Such orders require perpetrators to either attend counselling or go through mandatory mental health assessment and treatment.

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    Breaches of counselling orders issued by the court should be made an offence. Allow the court to grant other types of orders that prohibit visiting or communicating with the victim, and make breaches of these orders an arrestable offence to prevent any escalation of harm to the victims.

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    Currently, those issued with a domestic exclusion order are referred on an ad-hoc basis to shelters if they are unable to find other accommodation. The task force recommended that a structured referral system be put in place to help perpetrators find shelter.

 

PROTECTION AND SUPPORT FOR SURVIVORS

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    Increase penalties for PPO breaches to be in line with the penalties issued for breaches of protection orders under the Protection from Harassment Act (Poha).

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    Currently, those who contravene the PPO face a fine of up to S$2,000 and a jail term of up to six months. Repeat offenders face a fine of up to S$5,000 and a jail term of up to a year.

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    Those who breach protection orders issued under Poha are subject to a fine of up to S$5,000, a jail term of up to six months, or both. Repeat offenders risk a fine of up to S$10,000, a jail term of up to one year, or both.

  •  

    Empower a third party, such as the director-general of social welfare at MSF and “appointed protectors” such as MSF officers, to expedite PPOs for vulnerable persons experiencing family violence even if they do not give their consent. These applications should only be made when the survivor’s safety is seriously threatened.

 

EASIER REPORTING

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    Allow people to report family violence not just through phone calls to the National Anti-Violence Helpline, but also through internet live chat or messaging and mobile applications

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    Enhance support for young victims of family violence, such as introducing video-recorded interviews of young victims during investigations to minimise the trauma of repeating their testimonies.

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    Increase deterrence for family violence offenders by imposing remand for high-risk perpetrators during investigations.

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    Reduce the vulnerability of foreign spouses on long-term visit passes by lowering barriers to reporting family violence. For instance, government agencies can disseminate information on family violence through embassies, neighborhood police centres and social service agencies providing transnational family support programme.

 

INCREASING AWARENESS

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    Improve awareness of family violence by engaging families who have elevated risk of family violence, such as those who have past experience with child abuse.

 

GOVERNMENT TO STUDY PROPOSALS

The task force has submitted the recommendations to the Government, which will study the recommendations in the coming weeks before issuing a response.

The various agencies will inform the task force of which recommendations can be implemented immediately and which require further study once they have looked at the recommendations in detail.

Related topics

personal protection order domestic violence family assault abuse

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