A detention order is a court sentence that requires the offender to be detained in a specific place for a certain period of time. However, unlike a prison sentence, which follows a basic prison schedule for the inmate, detention orders tend to have specified conditions that the offenders will need to follow, such as attending rehabilitation programmes.

The main difference between a detention order and remand is the former is only given out after someone has been found guilty of a crime, while remand is detention of a person in a prison cell before the trial or police investigations have started. In Singapore, the police detention period can last up to 48 hours after which, the accused can be released on bail, unless the court rejects the bail for further investigations.

There are generally seven types of detention orders used in Singapore.

  • Detention Order for Youths
  • Weekend Detention Order
  • Short Detention Order
  • Home Detention Order
  • Preventive Detention Order
  • Preventive Detention under ISA
  • Detention Without Trial

Detention Order for Youths

For offenders below the age of 16 years, a Detention Order (DO) will be issued and the offender can be detained under a DO until the maximum age of 18. Unless the child really cannot be dealt with, courts usually won’t place children under 10 years old in detention.

If a young offender is found guilty of committing a crime, the Youth Court can order the offender to be detained for up to six months at a place of detention for troubled youths. If the Youth Court orders detention along with a probation order, then the detention period will not exceed three months. This will then be followed up by the probation order. However, if the youth is found guilty of a serious offence that would result in a long jail term, then the youth may be detained the same number of years, and then subsequently moved from detention centre to prison.

If the offender is found guilty of another offence while serving detention, the Youth Court may extend the detention order.

Weekend Detention Order

The court may issue a Weekend Detention Order (WDO) for youth offenders where they will be detained in a place of detention for a specified number of weekends, with the maximum of 26 weekends, of half a year. 

With a weekend order, the youth will only be detained at a specified detention place from 3:00 p.m on Saturdays until 5:00 p.m on Sunday. During this period, the youth will be required to undergo programmes from academic, holistic development to rehabilitation while for the rest of the week, they will be able to continue attending their school or work as usual. Depending on the case, the court may also impose a probation order, community service order or a fine, together with the weekend order.

Short Detention Order

For offenders above the age of 16 years, the court may issue a Short Detention Order (SDO) where the offender will be detained in prison for a maximum of 14 days. An SDO is usually meted out by the court for minor offences, with the rationale that SDOs will limit the detention period of low-risk offenders, reducing the stigma of prison and criminal records and thus, allowing the offender to rehabilitate without disruption to their education, job or family commitments. 

Due to its nature of being a community service-based order, SDOs do not carry a criminal record. However, if the SDO is breached, the court may revoke the SDO and impose a prison sentence on the offender instead.

Home Detention Order

Also commonly known as a ‘house arrest’, a Home Detention Order (HDO) is issued to offenders with the purpose of confining them in their home, under strict curfew rules. Technically, prisoners who have served at least 14 days of a prison sentence longer than 4 weeks are eligible to serve the rest of their sentence under home detention instead of prison as part of an initiative to prioritise their rehabilitation.

During the HDO, offenders will have to remain indoors for the duration specified in the order and attend counselling or rehabilitation sessions, together with occasional urine and hair tests. The person will also need to wear an electronic tag to monitor their whereabouts. If the offender has breached their HDO, the Superintendent of Prisons may revoke the order and recall the offender back to prison.

Offenders are not eligible for HDOs if they are serving a life sentence, convicted for serious offences such as drug trafficking or attempted murder, or in the case of foreigners, if they are expected to be deported upon the completion of their sentence. 

Preventive Detention Order

One of the more serious orders that are issued in Singapore courts. A preventive detention order is a three-stage order issued only when the court is satisfied that the offender may reoffend, and should be imprisoned to protect the public from this person. The duration of this order varies from 7 to 20 years and offenders are only liable for this order if they are above the age of 30, and certified mentally and physically fit for detention.

The offender must also meet at least one of the following:

  • Convicted of an offence that carries a jail sentence of at least two years, and was previously convicted at least three times since the age of 16 years and sentenced to either prison or corrective training at least twice; or
  • Convicted for three or more offences carrying jail sentences of at least two years, with prior conviction of the same offence, with at least one month in prison, since turning 16.

These offences could have been committed either in Singapore or overseas.

Stage one: between one to two years where periodic reports by the Superintendent Officer to the Commissioner of Prisons will determine the offender’s ability to proceed to the next stage

Stage two: the offender will be allowed privileges enjoyed by regular prisoners such as sending and receiving letters and allowing visitors. The offender will be able to move on to the final stage if the Commissioner considers and is satisfied with the offender’s conduct during the second stage and recommends the offender’s release on licence. If the Commissioner defers the decision, the case will be heard again in intervals of at least six months.

Stage three: the offender will live in modified security conditions to prepare their release and transition back into the community. However, the Commissioner may order the offender back to stage two if the conditions are not met. Upon release, the offender will still be expected to comply with the conditions in the licence or risk re-imprisonment.

Preventive Detention under the ISA

The Internal Security Act (ISA) allows the government to take quick action against any national security threats in Singapore. Preventive Detention under the ISA is only considered as a last resort and if prosecuting the offender might endanger witnesses, or expose intelligence and investigation methods.  

Police officers can detain a person under the ISA for up to 24 hours without a warrant, and up to 48 hours with one. For offences that are not so serious, the offender may be released and issued with a Restriction Order (RO) that will prevent the person from leaving the country without permission. However, for serious offences, the detention may be extended up to a maximum of 30 days by an officer holding the rank of Superintendent of Police, and above. 

The Minister of Home Affairs must be informed if the person is detained for more than 14 days, and the Minister can detain someone beyond 30 days only with the permission of the President. Detainees will also need to be given the reasons why they have been detained, in writing, and their families will be informed of their detention too.

Detention Without Trial

Last but not least, Detention without trial is for offenders above the age of 18 years. Under section 30 of the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act (CLTPA), the Minister for Home Affairs has the authority to detain a person without trial for up to a year if the detention is in the interests of public safety, peace and good order. The Public Prosecutor will have to consent to the detention, and it can be extended up to a year by the President.

Some criminal activities that fall under this category include:

  • Drug trafficking
  • Human trafficking
  • Secret society involvement
  • Robbery with firearms
  • Gang rape
  • Kidnapping
  • Murder

Besides committing these offences, aiding or abetting can also result in detention without trial. An advisory committee will review the detention order within 28 days and make recommendations to the President on whether the detention order should be issued. The President will then confirm or cancel the order. The police are also allowed to detain the offender for a maximum of 48 hours, which can be extended up to 14 days if more time is needed for the investigation.

If you are currently being issued with a detention order, you can also clarify with a lawyer what it entails.

Engaging a Lawyer

If you are currently in a situation that requires drafting legal documents like deeds and wills, mediation or legal advice, it’s best to consult a lawyer who will be able to guide you through your options.

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, high-profile criminal cases – to family and divorce matters. 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.