Range of civil and criminal responses available to protect victims of harassment
The Protection from Harassment Act 2014, which was introduced to strengthen harassment laws in Singapore, is now in force. A range of civil remedies and criminal sanctions is available to better protect people from harassment and related anti-social behaviour.
The Act was passed by Parliament on 13 March 2014. The Ministry of Law worked with agencies and stakeholders such as the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of Education, social welfare agencies and the Courts to develop the detailed rules and processes for dealing with the various forms of harassment behaviours.
Avenues for self-help and civil remedies for victims of harassment are now available under the Act. Victims may apply directly to the Court for a Protection Order, which will direct the harasser to stop the harassing behaviour. The Protection Order can also put a stop to the spread of harassing communication by others who re-publish the communication. In urgent cases, the Court may grant a temporary Expedited Protection Order on the spot. Breaches of Protection Orders or Expedited Protection Orders may amount to criminal offences.
A victim of false statements of facts alleged against him can also seek recourse. If the victim can prove in Court that the statements are false, the Court can direct the publication of a suitable notification which alerts readers that the statements are false. The form of notification will be at the discretion of the Courts.
Apart from seeking a Protection Order, a person can sue for monetary damages if he is a victim of harassment.
Under the Act, harassment is considered an offence - whether it is committed in the physical world or online. Stalking, which is a course of conduct that causes harassment, alarm or distress to the victim, is similarly considered an offence.
The Act will also apply to offences committed outside Singapore as long as certain conditions are satisfied. For example, where an offender who is overseas stalks a victim who is in Singapore, and the offender knew or ought to have known that the victim would be in Singapore when doing so, he may be found guilty of the offence of stalking.
Penalties for convictions range from fines not exceeding $5,000 to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or both. For repeat offenders, this increases to $10,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or both. Penalties for convictions are summarised in Annex A (0.08MB).