When does the police arrest an offender? Arrestable and non-arrestable offences in Singapore

Published on August 1, 2011

In recent years, multiple instances have surfaced whereby punches have been thrown and police have been called in, but no arrests were made. In such cases, the police officers present at the scene merely restricted themselves to recording the identities of the parties involved, as well as questioning witnesses. This has perplexed many Singaporeans. When will an arrest be made?

Police Procedure in Singapore

Upon arrival at the scene, the police would assess the situation and determine whether the fracas involved a crime categorised as an arrestable offence under the First Schedule of the Criminal Procedure Code. For non-arrestable offences, the police cannot make any arrests without a warrant. If it is definitively not an arrestable offence, the police would ensure that any victims receive medical treatment. They would also gather witness reports and record the identity of parties involved. This is for report-writing purposes afterwards.

What happens if the case involves a non-arrestable offence?

Police would advise parties involved in non-arrestable offences to file a Magistrate’s Complaint at the Subordinate Courts. This is because the police will not pursue the case any further and it is up to the victim to decide whether he would like to take the case to court. The Magistrate will then decide if the crime is worth prosecuting.

What are arrestable offences?

For a full list of arrestable offences, refer to the First Schedule of the Criminal Procedure Code. The following are examples of arrestable offences that may lead to an arrest:

  1. Unlawful assemblies or rioting
  2. Impersonation of a public servant
  3. Obstructing a public servant in his duties, or threatening a public servant
  4. Affray (Fighting in public places)
  5. Fouling the water of a public spring or reservoir
  6. Driving rashly or negligently
  7. Obscene acts in public
  8. Rape
  9. Theft and robbery
  10. Criminal trespass
  11. Assault or use of criminal force to a person with intent to outrage modesty (molest)
  12. Acts or attempts that cause or can cause death, including suicide, murder, or other rash acts
  13. Voluntarily causing grievous hurt
  14. Voluntarily causing hurt with a dangerous weapon

It is worth noting that voluntarily causing hurt is a non-arrestable offence. An arrest cannot be made without a warrant. Therefore, a police report must first be made before the Magistrate decides whether to issue a warrant for the perpetrator’s arrest. Defamation is also non-arrestable.

In addition, arrests will also be made if the suspect:

  1. Possesses housebreaking tools without a good excuse;
  2. Possesses stolen property
  3. Obstructs police affairs
  4. Is an army deserter
  5. May be about to commit an offence
  6. Commits a non-arrestable offence in view of police, and offers a fake identity or place of residence
  7. Offers a fake identity or place of residence
Arrest and Investigation
  1. What Happens During a Police Investigation?
  2. When does the police arrest an offender? Arrestable and non-arrestable offences in Singapore
  3. Police arrest procedure in Singapore
  4. Can a civilian arrest a criminal in Singapore?
  5. Is lying to the police or authorities a punishable offence in Singapore?
  1. Bails, bailable offences, non-bailable offences and sureties in Singapore
  1. Magistrate’s Complaints, Private Summons and Private Prosecutions in Singapore
  2. Prosecutorial discretion in Singapore
  3. What is Private Prosecution?
  4. Compounding or composition of offences in Singapore
Criminal Defence
  1. Criminal Compensation in Singapore
  2. What can I do to protect myself in self defence in Singapore?
  3. Claiming trial as an accused
  4. Mitigation Plea
  5. Pleading Guilty
Specific Criminal Offences
  1. The difference between murder and culpable homicide in Singapore
  2. Is it illegal to visit prostitutes in Singapore?
  3. What is the law on pornography in Singapore?
  4. Is it illegal to commit suicide in Singapore? Will I be punished if my attempt at suicide fails?
  5. What are Singapore’s laws on drug consumption?
  6. Is it illegal to feed stray animals in Singapore?
  7. What is the legal age for sex in Singapore? What are some common sexual offences in Singapore?
  8. When is gambling illegal in Singapore?
  9. Outrage of modesty in Singapore
  10. Is it illegal to threaten to beat someone up over Facebook?
  11. Is it illegal to cheat someone of an in-game item in MMORPGs?
  12. What to do if someone impersonates me online
  13. Are sham marriages illegal in Singapore? What are the consequences?
  14. Criminal breach of trust in Singapore
  15. Public assemblies and processions in Singapore – police permits and the Public Order Act