Can a civilian arrest a criminal in Singapore?
Walking along Ang Mo Kio Avenue 2 on your way home from work, you notice a robbery taking place. An old lady is being held at knifepoint and she is about to surrender her valuables. Sizing up the situation, you notice that the robber is a slightly-built man of about 1.67m while you, standing at nearly 1.9m, with 20 years of Aikido training under your belt, can certainly overpower him, knife or no knife. What should you do?
Singapore’s Penal Code provides for the defence of private defence (self-defence). This allows one to defend the body or property of himself or others against harm, without fear of reprisal from the law. (Read more on the defence of private defence here.)
Even further beyond that, section 66 of the Criminal Procedure Code allows civilians (ordinary citizens who are not police officers) to arrest the criminal, but only if the offender has, in the civilian’s view, committed an arrestable offence. The civilian must, without unnecessary delay, then hand over the arrested person to a police officer or take him to a police station.
Examples of arrestable offences can be found below:
- Unlawful assemblies or rioting
- Impersonation of a public servant
- Obstruction a public servant in his duties, or threatening a public servant
- Affray (Fighting in public places)
- Fouling the water of a public spring or reservoir
- Rash or negligent driving
- Obscene acts in public
- Theft and robbery
- Criminal trespass
- Assault or the use of criminal force to a person with intent to outrage modesty (molest)
- Acts or attempts that cause or can cause death, including suicide, murder, or other rash acts
- Voluntarily causing grievous hurt
- Voluntarily causing hurt with a dangerous weapon
For a full list of arrestable offences, refer to the First Schedule of the Criminal Procedure Code.
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