Under the Singapore law, acts constituting an outrage of modesty are criminalized under s354 of the Penal Code 1871. It states that: –

  • Whoever assaults or uses criminal force to any person, intending to outrage or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby outrage the modesty of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 years, or with fine, or with caning, or with any combination of such punishments;
  • Whoever commits an offence under subsection (1) against any person below 14 years of age shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 5 years, or with fine, or with caning, or with any combination of such punishments.

When determining if an act constitutes as an outrage of modesty, the Court will consider the following: the presence of criminal force/assault, absence of consent, and intent to commit the act (knowing the repercussions of their actions).

Examples of an Outrage of Modesty

A few examples of an outrage of modesty from past cases include: –

  • Trying to kiss an employee without consent;
  • Touching the lower breast of a public transportation worker;
  • Grabbing a student’s groin area from outside her school skirt;
  • And more.

Criminal Force

As mentioned earlier, to be charged under this offence, assault or use of criminal force must be present.

In the case of GDC v Public Prosecutor [2020] 5 SLR 1130; [2020] SGHC 241, the accused had used criminal force to the victim with the intention to outrage her modesty by touching her breast and pulling her hair to force her towards his groin.

Standard of Burden of Proof

With cases that concern sexual offences, reliance on a victim’s testimony to sustain a conviction is possible only where the evidence provided was ‘unusually convincing’. This means that a testimony (provided by the victim/a witness/witnesses) is/are so convincing that their testimony alone is sufficient to prove the prosecution’s case beyond reasonable doubt.

Typically, to achieve this, Public Prosecutor v GCK [2020] SGCA 2 states in [149] that the principle of proof beyond a reasonable doubt can be conceptualized in 2 ways: –

  • Reasonable doubt may arise from within the case mounted by the prosecution. As part of its own case, prosecution must adduce sufficient evidence to establish the person’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt on at least a prima facie basis; and/or
  • From an assessment on the totality of the evidence, including a holistic assessment of both the prosecution and defence’s evidence, and how they interact.

An example of providing a testimony that meets the “unusually convincing” threshold refers to candid and straightforward evidence. For instance, corroboration by a school counsellor’s report and testimony right after the incident occurred.

Typical Framework used in Courts

Generally, Kunasekaran s/o Kalimuthu Somasundara v PP [2018] 4 SLR 580 (“Kunasekaran”)’s sentencing framework is used in Outrage of Modesty cases.  This “two-step sentencing bands” approach is as follows:-

  • Court considers offence-specific factors. Based on offence-specific factors, Court ascertains gravity of the offence and places it within three bands of imprisonment.
  • Court considers the aggravating and mitigating factors that relate to the offender generally but isn’t offence-specific.

 Offence-specific factors are as follows:-

  • Degree of sexual exploitation: This considers the part of the victim’s body the accused touched, how they touched the victim, and duration of the outrage of modesty.
  • Circumstances of the offence: This includes considering (A) presence of premeditation, (B) use of force or violence, (C) abuse of a position of trust, (D) use of deception, and (E) presence of other aggravating acts accompanying the outrage of modesty; and (F) exploitation of a vulnerable victim.
  • Harm caused to the victim: Both physical/psychological impact would be considered.

The sentencing bands for imprisonment corresponding to the offence-specific factors are as follows:-

  • Band 1: Less than 5 months’ imprisonment;
  • Band 2: 5 to 15 months’ imprisonment; and
  • Band 3: 15 to 24 months’ imprisonment.

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.

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