Singapore — In the midst of outrage over the sentencing of an NUS undergrad who had attempted to strangle his former girlfriend and had hurt her in one eye, Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam has said in an interview that the authorities will be reviewing the penalty framework in similar cases.
The review will cover three areas: The penalties for such cases, the extent to which the offender’s background should be relevant in penalties, and how the punishment compares with the penalties for other offences.
The National University of Singapore dentistry student, Yin Zi Qin, 23, was given community-based sentences such as a short detention order for 12 days, a day reporting order for five months with counselling and an order to complete 80 hours of community service for a year.
District Judge Marvin Bay had justified them by stating that Yin’s “relative youth, his rehabilitative prospects and his lack of (previous convictions)” made community based-sentences “a viable option”.
The judge did note that the victim suffered a degree of psychological harm, such as insomnia and being “haunted with nightmares” of Yin breaking into her house and assaulting her.
The sentence, however, caused a public outcry with petitions being launched and the NUS releasing a statement shortly after to state that Yin had been suspended and was no longer allowed on campus.
The People’s Action Party (PAP) Women’s Wing and female PAP Members of Parliament also released a statement that they were “dismayed” by the “disproportionate” sentence.
The women’s rights group Aware also released a statement on the “imbalance between the worth accorded to female survivors and that accorded to male perpetrators” and asked for “more clarity” on how the decision was made and suggested a review of each stage of the law enforcement process.
Mr Shanmugam said that judges decide based on what is presented to them. “I think courts are not the issue. Courts are independent. When we disagree, the approach should be to look at the legal policy framework, which the Government can change,” he said.
He stressed that the laws here protect the “vulnerable and the weak”. “Of course, women’s protections in Singapore are very high, and we have to continue to make sure that it is so, both in terms of the framework and the application,” he said.
No specific timeline has been given for the review.
Mr Shanmugam also took to a Facebook post to explain that he could understand people looking to the courts “when they feel unhappy with the sentencing” but emphasised again that “the courts are not the issue — they are independent, and apply the law, to the facts as presented to them”.