Criminal Justice and Rehabilitation Framework

On 17 July 2020, an NUS Dentistry student was convicted of voluntarily causing hurt for strangling his ex-girlfriend and pressing her eye. He was sentenced to a 12-day Short Detention Order, 5-month Day Reporting Order, and 80 hours of community service. The Minister for Home Affairs and Law has announced that a review would be conducted of the sentencing framework and guidelines. As such, we would like to hear your views on the: penalties for violent and sexual offences, factors that should be relevant/irrelevant in assessing an adult offender’s rehabilitative capacity, and relative maximum punishment for different offences.
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  • Rason Lee
    First and foremost, our media reports are sketchy mainly lacking in judges' notes. Peculiarly in this case, the media reported, "...the victim broke up with Yin over WhatsApp and he later entered her home with an access card she had previously given him. She returned home to meet him and they entered her bedroom together by climbing into her window from an adjacent showroom unit." (https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/nus-dentistry-student-who-tried-to-strangle-ex-girlfriend-suspended-by-nus-facing-ongoing). Details like that raise more questions than answers. But let's just rule out premeditated violence as the judge presumably did, the ensuing considerations would be 1) if the light sentence is not intended to deter violent impulses, does it then carry effective counselling components for rehabilitation, 2) reparations adequacy for the victim and 3) preventive education. It follows that effective counselling would be the concern for varying jail terms as well, so as far as rehabilitation is concerned, the review ought to be about the composite effects of incarceration, regimentalism and counselling in relation to different psyches. For reparations, I'm of the view that the state courts should automatically provide for criminal and civil proceedings in one setting, ordering compensation as fine to save the victim from the burden of initiating. Victim impact statements should also provide for the commutation of jail sentences into acceptable forms that the victim may choose, i.e. to be empowered in plea bargaining. For counselling, the challenge is with getting the subject to feel empathy; for preventive education, the inducement of personal growth is key.
  • Rason Lee
    Sidetrack: since we are resuming discussion on social issues, how about starting topics around parliamentary debate?