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K Shanmugam says banning spy and hidden cameras to prevent upskirt crimes is ‘unworkable,’ promises stiffer penalties instead

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Non-Constituency MP Daniel Goh Pei Siong recently inquired in Parliament if the sale and usage of hidden or spy cameras should be regulated, in the context of a surge in “upskirt” and peeping tom crimes, as well as the violation of privacy, that have been easier than ever due to technological advancements.

K. Shanmugam, the Minister for Home Affairs and Law, said in a written reply to Goh’s question that while crimes of this nature are taken seriously, banning these cameras would be “unworkable.”

“It is quite unworkable to try and deal with the problem by banning spy cameras and hidden cameras. Mobile phones also come with cameras, and they can also be concealed to take secret photos or videos,” Shanmugam wrote.

However, what the government would do is the following: “We will increase the penalties and add new offences to try and deter the commission of such acts,” his reply continued. Guilty parties could face a jail sentence of up to two years, a fine, or both penalties, as well as caning.

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Under the present Penal Code, guilty parties only face up to one year of imprisonment, a fine, or both.

Shanmugan has said that it is likely that the Penal Code be amended in the first part of 2019.

Channel News Asia reported that for every year since 2013, an average of one hundred crimes of upstart photos taken has been reported to the police, as well as an average of 500 cases of insult of modesty for every year beginning from 2015.

Here is the Minister for Home Affairs and Law’s answer in full:

19 Nov 2018

Written Reply to Parliamentary Question on Regulating the Sale and Use of Spy or Hidden Cameras so as to Reduce Cases of Outrage of Modesty and Violation of Privacy, by Mr. K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law

Question:
Assoc Prof Daniel Goh Pei Siong: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs whether there is a need to regulate the sale and use of spy or hidden cameras so as to reduce cases involving the outrage of modesty and violation of privacy.

Answer:
Offences involving the use of spy or hidden cameras that insult the modesty of a person are taken seriously. Those found guilty are liable to imprisonment of up to one year, or a fine, or both.

In this context, the Penal Code Review Committee (“PCRC”) has recommended introducing new offences specifically relating to the making, distribution, possession, and accessing of voyeuristic recordings. The PCRC has also recommended that offenders who make such recordings be liable to imprisonment of up to two years, or a fine, or both, and caning. This is a higher punishment than under current laws. The Government has completed its public consultation on the PCRC’s recommendations and will be amending the Penal Code early next year.

It is quite unworkable to try and deal with the problem by banning spy cameras and hidden cameras. Mobile phones also come with cameras, and they can also be concealed to take secret photos or videos. We will increase the penalties and add new offences to try and deter the commission of such acts.

Read related: Shanmugam receives widespread praise for “hard work and dedication” after releasing second ‘Day in the Life of a Minister’ video

 

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