When broaching about criminal offences, the Court utilizes sentencing frameworks that can differ on a case-by-case basis.

‘Sentencing’ refers to a process utilized by the court, upon conviction of the accused, a punishment considered to be appropriate for the offence and the offender, is given. Generally, the court utilizes sentencing frameworks and considers the factors of the case. For instance, the facts of the case, if any amounted as aggravating factors, and more.

In the recent judgement of Goh Ngak Eng v Public Prosecutor [2022] SGHC 254 (“Goh Ngak Eng”), a revised sentencing framework for private sector corruption offences under ss 6(a) and (b) of the Singapore Prevention of Corruption Act 1960 (“PCA”) was set out. It was modelled after the two-stage, five-step framework in Logachev Vladislav v Public Prosecutor [2018] 4 SLR 609.

Section 6 of the PCA criminalizes agents who corruptly receive or give gratification as an inducement or reward for performing or withholding performance in relation to their principal’s affairs or business.

Previous sentencing framework used for Private Sector Offences

The previous sentencing framework utilized in private corruption cases was the sentencing framework found in Masui (HC), in Public Prosecutor v Takkaki Masui and another and other matters [2022] 1 SLR 1033.  

The first stage in Masui (HC) considered the severity of the offence committed, after having regard to all offence-specific factors based on the facts of the case.

Stage one comprises of steps one to three that comprise of assessing relevant offence-specific factors, determining the specific level of harm and culpability, and assessment of where the offence lies on the ‘modified harm-culpability matrix’.

Stage two considers all offender-specific factors and gives a sentence for the individual charges. This stage comprises of steps four and five. The steps consider the offence-specific factors that did not directly relate to the commission of the offence and regards the totality principle when determining the final global sentence of the offender.

In Goh Ngak Eng, the Court declined to utilized a new framework, citing reasons that the one within Masui (HC) was ‘excessively complex’ which is prone to ‘cause confusion and uncertainty’. The three-member bench comprised of Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, Justice of the Court of the Appeal Steven Chong, and Justice Vincent Hoong developed a new set of sentencing guidelines.

The new five-step sentencing framework is as follows: –

Step 1: Considering offence-specific factors

The Court first identifies, after referring to factors specific to the offence, the level of harm caused by the offence, and the offender’s culpability.

Harm is categorized as ‘slight’, ‘moderate’, or ‘severe’. Culpability is measured as ‘low’, ‘medium’, or ‘high’.

Factors going towards harm are as follows: –

  • Actual loss caused to principal;
  • Benefit to the giver of gratification;
  • Type and extent of loss to third parties;
  • Public disquiet;
  • Offences committed as part of a group or syndicate; and
  • Involvement of a transnational element.

Factors going towards culpability are as follows: –

  • Amount of gratification given or received;
  • Degree of planning and premeditation;
  • Level of sophistication;
  • Duration of offending;
  • Extent of the offender’s abuse of position and breach of trust; and
  • Offender’s motive in committing the offence.

Step 2: Identification of the applicable indicative range

The Court considers the applicable indicative range and references the level of harm caused by the offence, as well as culpability. The Court set out the following sentencing matrix: –

LowFine or up to 6 Months’ imprisonment6 to 12 Months’ imprisonment1 to 2 Years’ imprisonment
Medium6 to 12 Months’ imprisonment1 to 2 Years’ imprisonment2 to 3 Years’ imprisonment
High1 to 2 Years’ imprisonment2 to 3 Years’ imprisonment3 to 5 Years’ imprisonment

Step 3: Identification of the appropriate starting point within the indicative sentencing range

At Step 3, the Court identifies the starting point within the range identified in step 2. Here, the Court considers offence-specific factors corresponding with harm and culpability of the offender.

Step 4: Taking into account different circumstances

The Court then adjusts accordingly from the starting point within the indicative sentencing range after considering aggravating and mitigating factors. Relevant aggravating factors include previous antecedents, and more. Relevant mitigating factors include full co-operation and early plea of guilt.

Step 5: Applying the totality principle

Where the offender has been convicted with multiple charges, the Court considers step 5. Here, the Court is to consider all facts and circumstances once more, to ensure that the aggregate sentence is sufficient and in proportion to the offence, and offender.

Thereafter, the Court considers whether the sentence ought to be adjusted on an account of the totality principle.

The first limb of the totality principle examines whether the aggregate sentence is significantly above the normal level of sentences for the most serious of the individual offences committed. The second limb considers the effect of the sentence on the offender is not in accordance with his past record and prospects.

Where you might require more advice and consultancy about your case and the legal procedures, it is ideal to consult a lawyer for guidance and representation. Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu of Amarjit Sidhu Law Corporation 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.

Leave Comments