New sentencing framework for rape offences

Singapore’s apex court recently laid down a new sentencing framework for rape offences in Ng Kean Meng Terence v Public Prosecutor. Noting that it was timely to review the current state of sentencing laws with regard to rape offences, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Justices of Appeal Chao Hick Tin and Andrew Phang laid down the law in their 60-page decision, in early May 2017.

This represents a significant shift from the previous sentencing framework, which Singapore criminal lawyers are very familiar with, put in place 10 years ago in the seminal case of Public Prosecutor v NF. The new sentencing framework is broadly based off the “two-step sentencing bands approach” as observed  in the New Zealand Court of Appeal case of R v Taueki.


Ng Kean Meng Terence v Public Prosecutor [2017] SGCA 37

Public Prosecutor v NF [2006] 4 SLR(R) 849

R v Taueki [2005] 3 NZLR 372

The New Framework

The new framework is as follows:

    1. Classification of the offence and identifying the sentencing band the offence in question falls within, takes into consideration  offence-specific” factors. Once the sentencing band is identified, the court will then determine precisely where the offence falls within that range. This is in order to derive an “indicative starting point“.
    2. Calibrating the appropriate sentence with regards to “offender-specific” factors, which are personal to the offender.

Step 1a: Classification of the offence

In this step, the court will regard only “offence-specific” factors. These factors are those which relate to the circumstances of the offence and will be crucial in the court’s calibrating of an appropriate sentencing band. Several “offence-specific” factors were outlined by the court, in a non-exhaustive fashion, as listed below:


“Offence-specific” factor



Group rape

Offences which are committed by groups of persons, even if not the product of syndicated or planned action, are more serious.


Abuse of position and breach of trust

Where the offender is in a position of responsibility towards the victim (for example in a doctor-patient or teacher-student relationship). When such an offender commits rape, it is especially heinous due to the violation of the trust bestowed on him by society and the victim.



The presence of planning and premeditation shows a considerable commitment towards law-breaking. Examples include, the use of drugs to reduce the victim’s resistance or arranging to meet the victim in a secluded area under a false pretence.



Under s 375(3) of the Penal Code, the actual or threatened use of violence in the course of rape is a statutory aggravating factor.


Rape of vulnerable victim

The rape of a victim who is especially vulnerable because of age, physical frailty, mental impairment or learning disability.


Forcible rape of a victim below 14

The policy of the law is that a female under 14 cannot consent to sexual activity, and if the victim did not consent, the offence is particularly serious.


Hate crime

The commission of rape as an expression of racial or religious prejudice is especially despicable.


Severe harm to victim

Where the rape results in especially serious physical or mental effects on the victim (such as pregnancy or the transmission of a serious disease).


Deliberate infliction of special trauma

Where there is deliberate infliction of special trauma or where there is a rape by a man who knows he is suffering from a life-threatening sexually transmissible disease.

Step 1b): Identifying the sentencing band the offence falls within

The following sentencing bands prescribe ranges of sentences. These define the range of sentences usually imposed for a case with those “offence-specific” features.

S. No

Sentencing band


Band 1 comprises of cases at the lower end of the spectrum of seriousness. These cases attract sentences of 10–13 years of imprisonment and 6 strokes of the cane.

Such cases feature no “offence-specific” aggravating factors or are cases where these factors are only present to a very limited extent and therefore, have a limited impact on the sentence.


Band 2 comprises of rape cases of a higher level of seriousness. These cases attract sentences of 13–17 years of imprisonment and 12 strokes of the cane. Such cases would usually contain two or more “offence-specific” aggravating factors


Band 3 comprises of rape cases which, by reason of the number and intensity of the aggravating factors,, present themselves as extremely serious cases of rape. They should attract sentences of between 17–20 years of imprisonment and 18 strokes of the cane.

The court will first identify the appropriate Band and then determine precisely where within the range the “indicative starting point” for sentencing is, with consideration to the“offence-specific” factors.

Step 2: Calibrating the appropriate sentence

In the second step, the court will consider the aggravating and mitigating factors that are personal to the offender in order to calibrate the appropriate sentence for that offender. The following “offender-specific” factors relate to the offender’s specific personal circumstances. The court will clearly articulate the factors it has taken into consideration as well as the merit given to them.

S. No.

“Offender-specific” aggravating factor



Evident lack of remorse

For example, if the offender conducts his defence in an extravagant and unnecessary manner.


The presence of relevant antecedents

If the antecedent offence(s) was the same as that of the proceeded charge, the sentence might be more severe.


Offences taken into consideration for the purposes of sentencing

This can be demonstrated by, among other things, cooperation with the police.

“Offender-specific” mitigating factor


Display of evident remorse

For example, where the offender apologises after the incident.



The youth of the offender, and in turn his rehabilitation, is a pertinent consideration.


Advanced age

Although the advanced age of an offender is not generally a factor that warrants a sentencing discount, the courts do keep in mind that the imposition of substantial custodial terms deprives the elderly of a large fraction of their life expectancy.

The Court of Appeal also discussed the mitigating value of a plea of guilt and deemed that it should be assessed in terms of (i) the extent to which it is a signal of remorse; (ii) the savings in judicial resources; and (iii) the extent to which it spared the victim the ordeal of testifying.

Moving forward

The new Singapore framework, modelled after the Taueki methodology, has been lauded for bringing clarity, transparency, coherence, and consistency to our current state of rape sentencing laws. This is a positive change in the right direction and all that remains is to wait and see how our judiciary applies this new framework in the years to come.

Our Criminal Lawyer, Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu, has defended numerous clients over the years over a wide variety of offences. With vast experience in Singapore’s laws, Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu will be able to provide valuable and timely advice for your situation. For more information, or if you have been caught in a similar situation, feel free to contact us for a consultation.

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