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
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