Pe­nal code re­view to bet­ter pro­tect vul­ner­a­ble

Shan­mugam: It may in­clude new of­fences, harsher penal­ties for those who tar­get group

The Straits Times - - HOME - Aw Cheng Wei

An on­go­ing re­view of the Pe­nal Code may in­clude new of­fences and harsher pun­ish­ments for those who tar­get the vul­ner­a­ble, Law Min­is­ter K. Shan­mugam said yes­ter­day.

In a key­note ad­dress at an event or­gan­ised by the As­so­ci­a­tion of Mus­lim Lawyers last night, Mr Shan­mugam, who is also Home Af­fairs Min­is­ter, said that more must be done to pro­tect chil­dren, do­mes­tic work­ers and those with dis­abil­i­ties.

“How we treat them re­flects on us as a so­ci­ety,” said Mr Shan­mugam. “We have to do right by them.”

Draw­ing on re­cent high-pro­file cases where vul­ner­a­ble vic­tims were hurt or killed by peo­ple who are sup­posed to be pro­tect­ing them, he added that the Gov­ern­ment is ex­plor­ing how chil­dren can be bet­ter pro­tected against sex­u­ally abu­sive and ex­ploita­tive be­hav­iour, such as child pornog­ra­phy.

Cases raised by Mr Shan­mugam in­cluded the deaths of Ms An­nie Ee, who was in­tel­lec­tu­ally dis­abled, and two-year-old Mo­hamad Daniel Mo­hamad Nasser in 2015.

Ms Ee died af­ter a cou­ple whom she was liv­ing with beat her re­peat­edly. Mo­hamad Daniel died from bleed­ing in the brain af­ter his mother and her live-in boyfriend kicked and slapped him for days.

Of­fend­ers in both cases were sen­tenced to be­tween 10 and 161/ years in jail. Ms Ee’s male abuser was given 14 strokes of the cane while the man who contributed to Mo­hamad Daniel’s death got 12 strokes.

Do­mes­tic work­ers are an­other group that de­serve stronger pro­tec­tion, said Mr Shan­mugam. He raised the case of Filip­ina Thelma Oyasan Gaw­idan, whose weight plum­meted from 49kg to 29.4kg af­ter she was restricted to a 15-month diet of sliced bread and in­stant noo­dles by her em­ploy­ers. In a case that con­cluded last year, her em­ploy­ers were slapped with a 10-month jail term fol­low­ing pros­e­cu­tors’ ap­peal.

Mr Shan­mugam also noted the pub­lic out­rage over what was per­ceived as in­ad­e­quate pun­ish­ment for mixed mar­tial arts in­struc­tor Joshua Robin­son, which came in an on­line pe­ti­tion with more than 26,000 sig­na­tures.

Last year, Robin­son was sen­tenced to four years’ jail for a range of of­fences from sex­ual pen­e­tra­tion of two 15-year-olds to show­ing an ob­scene film to a six-year-old girl. In­ves­ti­ga­tors also found 5,902 ob­scene films in his apart­ment.

Such crimes are “par­tic­u­larly heinous, and all are sense­less”, said Mr Shan­mugam.

On the role that the law can play in pro­tect­ing the vul­ner­a­ble bet­ter, he said that the law is about sav­ing lives. “The law is not a game... My duty is to make sure that these games are not played. So we will change the law.”

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