When a crime is committed, registrable or otherwise, the offender will be subject to punishment as well as a potential criminal record. However, what is a criminal record and how can a person get one? Is it permanent? Can it be removed or cancelled? These are some of the questions you’ll find the answers to about criminal records in Singapore.

Criminal records were originally created during the days of colonial rule when authorities needed to keep track of known criminals. Today, they are most commonly used in background checks for employment and security clearance purposes.

What is a Registrable Crime?

Listed under the First and Second Schedules of the Registration of Criminals Act (RCA), Registrable crimes cover a wide spectrum of crimes that extend beyond the Penal Code. Some of these also include, but not limited to:

  • Arms Offences Act [Cap. 14] (Sections 3 to 8)
  • Bankruptcy Act 1995 (Part X)
  • Broadcasting and Television Act [Cap. 28] (Section 5)
  • Internal Security Act [Cap. 143]
  • Misuse of Drugs Act [Cap. 185]
  • Official Secrets Act [Cap. 213]
  • Organised Crime Act 2015 [Act 26 of 2015]
  • Women’s Charter [Cap. 353]

If you are caught committing a non-registrable offence, you may not be subject to registration under the RCA. Non-registrable offences include minor offences like littering or jaywalking.

You Can Get a Criminal Record If You Are:

  • Convicted of a registrable crime in Singapore;
  • Convicted of offences committed, and also registrable in Malaysia;
  • Ordered to be banished, expelled or deported from Singapore or Malaysia;
  • All of the above, from any place outside of Singapore and Malaysia, with the particulars provided by the relevant authorities of the place
  • Are All Offenders Guilty of Registrable Crimes Recorded?

If you are convicted of a registrable offence in the Second Schedule of the RCA including crimes such as Mischief, Betting or Causing Hurt, the Commissioner of Police has the discretion to not include your name in the register provided you fulfil these requirements:

  • Sentenced to a fine of up to S$1,000 instead of a jail term.
  • No previous criminal record

If the Commissioner of Police decides not to register you, the Registrar will retain your particulars for 6 months from the date of receiving them and unless the Commissioner of Police decides to register you during this period, the Registrar will destroy your particulars.

What Records Are Kept in The Register?

If you are familiar with police dramas on TV like CSI, then you will find the particulars and records kept are quite similar. These include the person’s name, fingerprints, photograph, the crime committed and the sentence meted out.

There will also be body samples such as hair, swabs taken from the person’s mouth and blood samples that form your DNA database, kept by the Registrar.

Is a Criminal Record Permanent?

The short answer is yes. Once a record is registered in the Register of Criminals, it will never be fully erased or removed until the person dies or reaches a 100 years old, whichever comes first.

However, certain criminal records for minor crimes may instead, become spent after a crime-free period of 5 consecutive years from the date the sentence was passed if there was no imprisonment, or starting from the day the offender is released from prison.

All criminal records related to offences listed in the Third Schedule of the RCA, which are generally serious crimes such as rape, homicide or gang robbery, among many others will remain permanent.

An offender can also be disqualified from having their criminal records spent if:

  • The sentence included a prison term of more than 3 months, or a fine of more than S$2,000
  • The person already has more than one conviction recorded on the register
  • The person already has a previous spent record on the register.

If you have been disqualified from having your criminal records spent, you may apply to the Commissioner of Police to have your record spent, upon which The Commissioner will make the final decision based on the facts of each case.

A spent criminal record means you no longer have a criminal record. This means in job applications, you are allowed to say you have no criminal record, however, you will still need to declare that you have been convicted before.

Even if your record has been spent, your particulars, including DNA records will still remain on the Register. To check the spent status of your criminal record, you can do so on Singapore Police Force’s e-Services Portal, under Enquiry > Police Matters > Status of Check Rendered Spent.

Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu of Amarjit Sidhu Law Practice has represented numerous clients in a wide variety of matters over the years from traffic offences, family disputes to high-profile criminal cases. With a vast knowledge of Singapore’s laws and a wealth of experience, Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu will be able to provide valuable and timely advice for your situation. For more information, feel free to contact us for a consultation.

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