Caning in Singapore: Judicial, School & Parental Corporal Punishment
Corporal punishment refers generally to inflicting deliberate physical pain as punishment, through caning. Even though it is considered outdated by many other nations, it is still fairly common in Singapore.
This article will discuss 3 types of caning:
Judicial Caning in Singapore
Judicial caning is a form of corporal punishment in Singapore meted out to offenders.
Judicial caning is applicable to more than 30 offences, but it is compulsory for a dozen of crimes such as attempted murder, rape, armed robbery, drug trafficking and vandalism.
Who can be caned?
Caning is only carried out on males aged 7 and up to 50 years old, and who are medically fit for caning.
Who is exempted from judicial caning?
Women and all offenders who are sentenced to death are exempted from judicial caning. Instead, they may be given an imprisonment of up to 12 months in lieu of caning.
How is judicial caning carried out?
Where one is sentenced to caning in addition to imprisonment, caning must not be inflicted until after the period within which the sentence can be appealed. If an appeal is made, caning cannot be inflicted until after the end of the appeal.
Where a person is sentenced to caning only, or where the caning cannot be carried out before the person’s release from jail, the Public Prosecutor must apply to the court for the authorisation of detention of the person, for a period necessary for carrying out the sentence of caning.
The time and place of the caning is to be directed by the court. However, the offender will not be given any advance notice of when he will be caned.
On the day of the caning, a cane of up to 1.27 cm in diameter will be used. (For juveniles – children aged 7 to below 16 – a light rattan will be used instead.) The caning will be administered on the offender’s buttocks.
A medical officer has to be present during the caning to certify that the offender is in a fit state of health to be caned. Caning must be stopped mid-execution if the medical officer certifies that the offender is not in a fit state of health to undergo the rest of the sentence.
It is not possible for caning to be executed in instalments.
Thus, if a caning is stopped mid-session, the offender may be given up to 12 months of imprisonment to compensate for the unfinished strokes. This also applies where the offender is deemed medically unfit to be caned in the first place.
How many strokes of cane are allowed to be imposed on offenders?
There is a legal limit of 24 strokes for adults and 10 for juveniles— at the same sitting.
Hence, where an offender is convicted of more than one offence, resulting in the number of strokes to be more than 24, he would be imprisoned for up to 12 months in lieu of the strokes exceeding 24.
However, if an offender is convicted in a later sitting for an offence that is also punishable by caning, the same punishment can be meted out again, resulting in the offender receiving more than 24 strokes of the cane in total.
Caning in Singapore Schools
Caning, as a form of corporal punishment in Singapore schools, is allowed under the Education (Schools) Regulation. Such punishment is always complemented with counselling and follow-up guidance on the student who had been caned.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) gives schools the full legal authority to exercise responsibility for the discipline of their students and they are given a set of guidelines (see below) by MOE when it comes to caning.
Guidelines and school rules for corporal punishment
Generally, MOE identifies a list of minor and major offences, and gives guidelines on the methods to dealing with these offences, including repeated offences.
Firmness and fairness is emphasised in these guidelines, taking into consideration the best approach for the students’ well-being and learning.
The guidelines given to schools applies to full-time primary and full-time secondary schools, including junior colleges and centralised institutes providing pre-university education.
However, while there are guidelines, schools are free to determine their own rules based on their “context and needs” within the given framework.
These rules are communicated to students and parents during enrolment, via the student handbook, on the school’s website, in parent-teacher meetings and letters to parents.
Therefore, it is up to the senior management of the school to decide whether to adopt corporal punishment or (public) caning in their school.
How is caning carried out in schools?
Corporal punishment can only be inflicted by the principal or under his express authority.
Only male pupils can be caned. A range of 1 to 3 strokes of a light cane may be given on the palms or buttocks over clothing.
Caning is usually done as a last resort, and for serious offences. In a 2016 example, about 30 students from an all-boys school were caned — several publicly, in front of their respective levels — for keeping and sharing up-skirt photos and videos of 6 teachers.
Do parents have a say in a school’s corporal punishment?
Unlike in the case of private tutors, parents are not direct employers and are not in the position to set guidelines for schools.
Thus, it is unlikely that parents are able to make a complaint or take action against the school for imposing caning on their child, unless the caning had not been done according to the MOE guidelines.
For example, if it was imposed on a child without permission from the principal, or was caned too harshly.
Parental Corporal Punishment
Singapore is careful to toe the line between allowing punishment and condoning abuse by taking a case-by-case approach in determining the boundaries of acceptable punishment.
It is not illegal or unlawful for parents to cane their child in Singapore, unless it goes to the extent where the punishment could be deemed as abuse.
When does parental corporal punishment become abuse?
Singapore considers corporal punishment by parents as abuse when it:
- Causes unnecessary physical pain, suffering or injury;
- Emotional injury; or
- Injury to the health or development of the child.
Parents have been convicted for inflicting physical abuse on their children. For example, a father was jailed for beating his 9 year-old son over homework, to the point where his son was admitted to the hospital.
In court, the Public Prosecutor argued that it was clear that the punishment had not been done “simply in a controlled manner for the purpose of discipline, but out of rage.”
How can parental corporal punishment affect a child?
According to a senior consultant at the National University Hospital’s child development unit, the more frequently or severely a child is hit or caned, the more likely he will develop symptoms of depression or anxiety.
The same senior consultant has also commented that studies have shown that corporal punishment is associated with aggressive and antisocial behaviour in later life.
The parent-child relationship plays a big part in moderating effects of corporal punishment.
In other words, the impact of corporal punishment would be larger if it sours the relationship between the parent and child. This can happen when corporal punishment is used excessively, to a point the child believes to be unloved by his parents.
Thus, if parents would like to employ corporal punishment, they should obtain agreement from the child regarding the circumstances under which caning would be employed as a form of punishment and stick to what they have agreed, i.e. to use the cane when the child exhibits a certain behaviour, as agreed upon.
The punishment should also not be given merely out of anger, and the child should understand the reasons for being punished. This may also improve parent-child trust.
What can parents do instead of imposing corporal punishment?
Nonetheless, experts in the area generally do not encourage corporal punishment.
For parents who struggle with disciplining their children, they can turn to evidence-based parenting programmes for help. The Positive Parenting Programme (Triple P) is one such programme parents can look to.
It is a multi-level, prevention-oriented parenting and family support programme that has proved “greater parenting competence, lower parenting stress, improved emotional states and reduced behavioural problems in children.”
The main crux of the Triple P programme strategies is to develop positive parent-child relationships, attitudes and conduct. According to Mr Francis Lee, an accredited Triple P trainer, here are 3 parenting tips from the programme:
- Give clear instructions when your child is doing something undesirable. This is so that the child understands from you what is the positive behaviour they should exhibit.
- Do not nag when you want your child to do something, instead take actions to ensure your child does what is told. E.g. if you want your child to stop watching TV and do something, turn off the TV instead of nagging repeatedly.
- Be aware of your emotions and refrain from disciplining your child when you are unable to be firm and calm in your actions.
We hope that this article has given you a better understanding of corporal punishment in Singapore and offers clarity regarding the parameters within which it is and can be carried out.
For persons charged with an offence and are seeking assistance, please do not hesitate to contact one of our criminal defence lawyers.
- Police Investigation Process in Singapore
- When Can the Police Arrest Someone?: Arrestable and Non-Arrestable Offences in Singapore
- Police Arrest Procedure in Singapore
- Can a Civilian Arrest a Criminal in Singapore?
- Is Lying to the Police or Authorities an Offence in Singapore?
- Surrender of Passport to the Police and How to Get It Back
- What to Do If You’re Being Investigated for a Criminal Offence in Singapore
- Can You Say No to a Lie Detector Test in Singapore? And Other FAQs
- What Should You Do If You Witness a Crime in Singapore?
- Do You Have a "Right to Remain Silent" to the Police in Singapore?
- Extradition: What If You Flee after Committing Crime in Singapore?
- Warrant of Arrest: What to Do If It is Issued Against You in Singapore
- Search Warrant: The Issuance and Execution of It in Singapore
- Police Custody in Singapore: What You Should Know
- Compensation for Crime Victims in Singapore: How to Obtain
- Exercising Your Right to Self-Defence When Attacked in Singapore
- Claiming Trial as an Accused
- Mitigation Plea
- Pleading Guilty in Singapore: Consequences & Withdrawal of Plea
- Guide to Filing a Criminal Appeal in Singapore
- Presidential Clemency in Singapore
- Probation: Eligibility and Whether It Leaves a Criminal Record
- Reformative Training in Singapore: When Will It be Ordered?
- Visiting a Loved One in Prison or On Death Row in Singapore
- 7 Detention Orders in Singapore and When Will They be Ordered?
- Consequences of Receiving a Stern Warning in Singapore
- Are You Eligible for a Mandatory Treatment Order (MTO)?
- Can I Represent Myself in a Criminal Court Case in Singapore and How?
- Caning in Singapore: Judicial, School & Parental Corporal Punishment
- Criminal Motion: What is It and How to File One in Singapore
- Getting Parole (Early Prison Release) in Singapore
- Repatriation or Deportation from Singapore: How Does It Work?
- How Can Adult Offenders Get Probation in Singapore?
- Legal Age for Sex in Singapore and Common Sexual Offences
- Accused of Molest: Outrage of Modesty in Singapore
- What Can Victims of Sexual Harassment in Singapore Do?
- What is the Law on Sexting in Singapore?
- Revenge Porn: What If Your Nudes are Leaked in Singapore?
- Crime of Voyeurism in Singapore (Penalties and Defences)
- Consent in Sexual Offences in Singapore and What Victims Can Do
- STDs: Can I Go to the Police If a Partner Infected Me in Singapore?
- Child Pornography in Singapore: Offences and Penalties
- Is it illegal to visit prostitutes in Singapore?
- Is Watching, Downloading or Filming Porn Illegal in Singapore?
- Singapore's Drug Laws: Possession, Consumption and Trafficking
- When Can You Legally Gamble (In Public or Online) in Singapore?
- Is Vaping Illegal in Singapore?
- DUI: Here are the Penalties for Drink-Driving in Singapore
- Legal Drinking Age in Singapore and Other Drinking-Related Laws
- Singapore's Legal Smoking Age and Common Smoking Offences
- The Offence of Human Trafficking in Singapore and Its Penalties
- Murder vs Culpable Homicide in Singapore: Differences & Penalties
- Is Suicide Illegal in Singapore? Will I Be Punished for Trying?
- Is it illegal to feed stray animals in Singapore?
- Criminal Intimidation: Penalties for Making Threats in Singapore
- Penalties for Impersonating Someone and Victim Redress
- What are Sham Marriages and Are They Illegal in Singapore?
- Public Assemblies and Processions in Singapore: Police Permits and the Public Order Act
- Racial Enmity: Sections 298 and 298A Penal Code Explained
- Penalties for Unlawful Assembly and Rioting in Singapore
- Voluntarily Causing Hurt Penalties in Singapore (Non-Arrestable)
- Misbehaving in Public: 5 Things You Need to Know
- Is it Legal for Drivers to Carpool in Singapore?
- Complete Guide to E-Scooter and PMD Laws for Singapore Riders
- Is Joining a Gang Illegal in Singapore?: Being Recruited and Penalties
- What Happens If You’re Caught Speeding in Singapore?
- Charged with a Traffic Offence in Singapore: What to Do
- Penalties for Committing Theft in Singapore
- Road Rage: What is It and How are Offenders Sentenced in Singapore
- Singapore Fake News Laws: Guide to POFMA (Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act)
- Laws and Penalties for Doxxing in Singapore (With Examples)
- Littering and Killer Litter Offences: Here are the Penalties in Singapore
- Organised Crimes: Penalties/Orders Syndicates Face in Singapore
- Animal Cruelty in Singapore: Offences, Penalties & How to Report
- Penalties for Dishonest Misappropriation of Property in Singapore
- Penalties for Financing Terrorist Operations in Singapore
- Penalties for Illegal Immigration and Overstaying in Singapore
- Kidnapping Scam: Penalties & Responding to a ‘Kidnap Call/Text'
- Religious Cults in Singapore: Are they Illegal? Penalties & More