Singapore—Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Amrin Amin raised the issue of the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) in Parliament on May 6.
The country’s MACR is to be raised from 7 to 10 under the Criminal Law Reform Bill.
Mr Amrin said that the age of criminal responsibility needs to be updated since it harks back to Singapore’s colonial days.
He reasoned that children who are under seven years old, or who are under the age of 12 but do not comprehend the nature and consequences of their behavior “cannot be held criminally responsible for any act or omission which would otherwise be an offence.”
Mr Amrin said that there was a need to get the right balance between being fair to very young children who cannot fully comprehend the consequences of their actions and protecting members of the public.
After all, he reasoned in Parliament, criminal activity among children under the age of 10 is very low in the country.
However, for individuals older than ten, there is a rise in criminal activity, such as property offenses including theft.
Therefore, Mr Amin said, “On balance, we think MACR of 10 years old would be more appropriate in our context.”
But he added that while children under the age of 10 and those between 10 and 12 who cannot comprehend the nature and consequences of what they have done will not receive a conviction, there will still be interventions for them.
He added that the Home Affairs Ministry intends to create a framework allowing authorities to intervene in cases of such minors. Increasing the MACR will only be implemented when this framework has been crafted.
Many other changes have been proposed to the Criminal Law Reform Bill, which includes decriminalising attempted suicide, repealing marital immunity for rape, and expanding the scope of rape to include all forms of penile penetration.
Mr Amrin discussed fraud, a proposed new offence, wherein the aim of the offender to deceive his or her victim, and not its consequences to the victim are focused on. He said, “The new offence of fraud is intended to deal with novel and complex schemes which the current offence of cheating may not cover.”
On February 11, the Criminal Law Reform Bill was introduced in Parliament for First Reading. It introduced changes to the Penal Code, ensuring that it remains relevant and up-to-date. The Bill also amends other legislation, such as the Criminal Procedure Code, the Children and Young Persons Act and the Women’s Charter to make related changes.
The last time the Penal Code was reviewed was in 2007.
In July 2016, the Penal Code Review Committee (PCRC) had been formed and was composed of leading practitioners and thought leaders from the academia, as well as the private and public sectors.
When we reported on the first reading of the Criminal Law Reform Bill, TISG wrote, “The PCRC recommended raising the MACR from 7 to 10 years of age.
There was support for the raising of the MACR. However, there were differing opinions on the age ceiling. Some representatives from the social sector were of the view that the MACR should be raised to 12 instead of 10 years of age, in line with the recommendation of the UN Committee on the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.
After considering the feedback, the Government accepts the PCRC’s recommendation to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 7 to 10 years of age, which will put us on par with jurisdictions such as England, Wales, and Hong Kong. In Singapore, there is a marked increase in the number of juveniles offenders from the age of 10, which might require the Police to intervene.”/TISG