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No reason to raise age limit above 50 for caning sex offenders: K Shanmugam

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ACEH, INDONESIA - SEPTEMBER 15 2020 : A man is seen wearing a face mask while being caned in public for violating sharia law, amid fears of COVID-19, in North Aceh, on September 15, 2020, in Aceh Province, Indonesia.According to local officials' reports, four male sharia lawbreakers were sentenced to 25 to 105 lashes for child abuse and adultery. Caning is a form of punishment imposed in Aceh for violating Islamic sharia law. Aceh is the only province in Indonesia that applies Sharia law as positive law.- PHOTOGRAPH BY Fachrul Reza / Barcroft Studios / Future Publishing (Photo credit should read Fachrul Reza/Barcroft Media via Getty Images) © Fachrul Reza / Barcroft Studios / Future Publishing ACEH, INDONESIA - SEPTEMBER 15 2020 : A man is seen wearing a face mask while being caned in public for violating sharia law, amid fears of COVID-19, in North Aceh, on September 15, 2020, in Aceh Province, Indonesia.According to local officials' reports, four male sharia lawbreakers were sentenced to 25 to 105 lashes for child abuse and adultery. Caning is a form of punishment imposed in Aceh for violating Islamic sharia law. Aceh is the only province in Indonesia that applies Sharia law as positive law.- PHOTOGRAPH BY Fachrul Reza / Barcroft Studios / Future Publishing (Photo credit should read Fachrul Reza/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

Singapore — Member of Parliament Murali Pillai (PAP – Bukit Batok) said that serious sex offenders should still be caned regardless of their age because this would be a stronger deterrent against such offences.

Speaking in Parliament on Monday (Sept 13), Mr Murali suggested that the current cut-off age of 50 years for caning serious sex offenders was “not fit for purpose.”

He observed that middle-aged sex offenders tend to target younger victims; therefore, they should be strongly deterred from such actions.

Mr Murali expressed support for the Criminal Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill, which was read for the second time in Parliament.

The bill would raise maximum penalties for certain sexual offences such as outrage of modesty, causing a minor to view a sexual image or engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a minor.

However, Mr Murali highlighted that “there should not be an age limit to caning as punishment”, in line with the purpose of protecting women, children and vulnerable persons from sexual predators.

“Instead, we should look to whether the person is medically fit to be caned. If it is found to be so, it should be no impediment,” said Mr Murali.

He cited that the initial cut-off age of 50 years was first introduced in 1900 by Britain and was based on the life expectancy at that time.

More than 120 years later, the life expectancy in Singapore is “slightly more than 80 years,” said Mr Murali, suggesting that the cut-off age for caning should also be extended.

He added that the cut-off age for caning in Malaysia is also 50 years old yet does not apply to serious sexual offences, given that the offender is medically fit for the punishment.

“I don’t see why Parliament should presume in favour of a repeat sex offender that is not fit to be caned when he is clearly fit to commit those heinous offences,” said Mr Murali.

“I also think it’s not a coincidence that such middle-aged offenders tend to target younger victims; we need to ensure that such like-minded offenders will be strongly deterred from harming them.”

In response to Mr Murali’s speech, Minister for Law and Home Affairs K Shanmugam repeated that “there is no reason to raise the age limit” based on their assessment.

“The number of men over the age of 50 arrested for serious offences that attract caning is significantly lower, compared to men under the age of 50,” he noted.

“Where an offender is not eligible for caning, the court can still impose an additional imprisonment term of up to 12 months in lieu of caning, if it assesses that there is a need to do so.”

Still, Mr Shanmugam admitted that Mr Murali’s argument of keeping the cut-off age in tandem with life expectancy was a “logical” and “cogent one.”

However, “we have been quite cautious about extending the categories of people who are caned.”

Members from the online community supported Mr Murali’s suggestion, given the gravity of the offence.

“I strongly support Murali(‘s) suggestions,” said Facebook user Siva Sangar Naidu in a comment backed by over 160 likes.

“Strongly support, should raise to age 60 then no need caning, however, if no caning administered, then in lieu of caning must not be less than another five years in jail and fine at least S$50,000,” said Facebook user Tan Swee Heng. /TISG

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