Causing Public Alarm in Singapore: Examples & Penalties

Last updated on September 21, 2022

man panicking

You might think that the public would not be alarmed if you brandished a toy gun in public. This was what a 19-year-old man did when he carried a shotgun-like object in public. His actions caused passersby to be alarmed which resulted in the police investigating the matter. This is an example of public alarm. 

Although instances like the one above are rare, causing public alarm is a serious offence. Offenders can be punished under the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA) and face hefty penalties. Read further to learn more about the potential consequences of causing public alarm.

This article will cover:

What is the Offence of Causing Public Alarm?

The offence of causing public alarm can be found in section 4 of the POHA. This section states that an individual or entity must not use any threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour/communication that causes the other person to feel alarmed.

To better understand how the elements of section 4 POHA are applied, we will be using an example of a man waving a sword in public.

The elements under section 4(1) POHA are as follows:


This would refer to a company, association or group of people. It does not need to be a business.  The man waving his sword would be considered an individual.

Threatening, abusive or insulting

This means that most people would find the accused’s actions, words or any such communication to be threatening, abusive or insulting. These 3 terms can be understood in their ordinary meaning i.e., the meaning that the general public would understand in their daily use.

The act of waving a sword in public would be viewed as threatening. This is because a sword is a weapon and a passerby who sees the man waving the sword would think that he would want to injure people with it.

Seen, heard or perceived

This element suggests that the victim must see or hear the threatening, abusive or insulting action(s) or gesture(s). This is important in establishing why the victim was alarmed.

For example, the passerby who sees the man waving his sword would be alarmed by this sight as he would perceive that he might be in danger or face a threat to his safety.

Cause harassment, alarm or distress

This element is fulfilled as long as the victim perceives the act to have caused them harassment, alarm or distress. This is even if the act was not directed at the victim.

For example, if a man brandishes his sword into the air, and the public is alarmed by this, the man would be found guilty of an offence even though he did not direct the sword to the public or any one person in the crowd.

The Offence of Intentionally Causing Public Alarm 

Under section 3 of the POHA, a person can be found guilty of intentionally causing public alarm. This may happen if a man brandishes his sword at the public, with the intention to cause them harassment, alarm or distress.

This is unlike section 4 of the POHA, where a person can be found guilty of causing public alarm even if they did not intend to cause public alarm. The penalties for intentionally causing public alarm are heftier as well (see below).

What are the Penalties For Causing Public Alarm?

If you are guilty of causing public alarm under section 4 of the POHA you will face a fine of up to $5,000 upon conviction. However, if you were found to have intentionally caused public alarm under section 3(1) of the POHA, you will be fined up to $5,000 and/or jailed for up to 6 months upon conviction

Under section 9 of the POHA, the court can also make a community order after convicting the suspect. This means the offender must perform unpaid community service under the supervision of an authorised officer.

Is Causing Public Alarm an Arrestable Offence?

Causing public alarm is an arrestable offence. Under section 18 of the POHA, police officers can arrest, without a warrant, anyone whom they think is offending any of the provisions under the POHA.

You may refer to our other article for a detailed overview of the differences between arrestable and non-arrestable offences

Are There Any Applicable Defences to the Offence of Causing Public Alarm?

Yes, section 4(3) POHA outlines the defence for causing public alarm. You can use this defence if you satisfy the following elements:

  1. You do not think that the words, behaviour or communication would be heard, seen, or perceived by the victim as threatening, abusive or insulting; and
  2. Your conduct was reasonable.

These two elements above must be proven through the use of relevant facts that occurred at the time of the incident.

An example of a situation where this defence can apply is an umpire firing a bullet into the sky during a track and field event to signal the start of the race. People who do not know that there is a track and field race would perceive the gunshot to be threatening because they might think that there is a gunman who is shooting at people. Here, the two elements of defence are satisfied because the shots that were fired were not directed at any person when the gun was pointed in the sky. Second, the umpire was carrying out his duties by signalling the start of a race to the participants. This is an essential part of the competition.

However, if you are unable to prove this defence, you would be guilty of the offence of causing public alarm under section 4(2) POHA.

Causing public alarm involves exhibiting threatening, abusive or insulting actions, behaviour or words which cause the public to feel alarmed. This is a serious offence because you do not need to carry out the action intentionally for you to be potentially charged and prosecuted for committing the offence.

If you encounter a person displaying such behaviour or communication that can be deemed to be causing public alarm, you should stay calm and make your way to a safe place, if possible, before contacting the police.

On the other hand, if you have been charged with causing public alarm, you should consult a criminal lawyer for further advice. A criminal lawyer will be able to assess your case and advise you on how you should proceed with your case, including the applicability of any defences.

You may get in touch with experienced criminal lawyers here.

Arrest and Investigation
  1. Singapore’s Extraterritorial Jurisdiction: What Does It Mean?
  2. Your Right to a Lawyer After Being Arrested in Singapore
  3. What to Do If Your Loved One is Under Police Investigation
  4. How to Write a Letter of Representation to AGC in Singapore
  5. What is Entrapment and is It Legal in Singapore?
  6. What Happens When You Voluntarily Surrender to the Police
  7. Juvenile Crime: What If Your Child is Arrested in Singapore?
  8. Seized Assets in Money Laundering Investigations: What Happens To Them?
  9. Tasers, Batons, Shields & Firearms: When Do the Police Use Them?
  10. Stopped by the Singapore Police For Spot Checks, Etc: What to Do
  11. What is the Appropriate Adult Scheme in Singapore?
  12. Police Investigation Process for Crimes in Singapore (4 Steps)
  13. Arrest Warrant Issued Against You in Singapore: What to Do
  14. Police Arrest Procedure in Singapore
  15. Arrestable and Non-Arrestable Offences in Singapore
  16. What Should You Do If You Witness a Crime in Singapore?
  17. Can the Public Make a Citizen's Arrest in Singapore?
  18. What to Do If You’re Being Investigated for a Criminal Offence in Singapore
  19. "Right to Remain Silent" to Singapore Police: Does It Exist?
  20. Police Custody in Singapore: What You Should Know
  21. Search Warrant: The Issuance and Execution of It in Singapore
  22. Penalties for Lying to the Authorities in Singapore
  23. Can You Say No to a Lie Detector Test in Singapore? And Other FAQs
  24. Surrender of Passport to the Police and How to Get It Back
  25. Extradition: What If I Flee After Committing Crime in Singapore
  1. The Essential Guide to Bail and Personal Bonds in Singapore
  1. What is Private Prosecution?
  2. Magistrate’s Complaints, Private Summons and Private Prosecutions in Singapore
  3. Prosecutorial Discretion in Singapore
  4. Composition Offers and Fines for Criminal Offences in Singapore
  5. Plea Bargaining in Singapore: All You Need to Know
During Criminal Proceedings
  1. Making Objections at Trial in the Singapore Courts
  2. When is a Witness Testimony Unreliable in Singapore?
  3. Burden of Proof in Criminal and Civil Cases in Singapore
  4. Falsely Accused of a Crime in Singapore: Your Next Steps
  5. What is Acquittal & How Can One Be Acquitted in Singapore?
  6. Using the Defence of Diminished Responsibility in Singapore
  7. Death of a Party in a Legal Case in Singapore: What Happens?
  8. The "Unusually Convincing" Test in "He Said, She Said" Cases
  9. How to Adjourn or Postpone a Criminal Court Hearing
  10. TIC: Guide to Charges Taken Into Consideration in Singapore
  11. Can I Use the Defence of Intoxication in Singapore?
  12. When Can I Raise the Defence of Provocation in Singapore?
  13. Writing Character References For Court: What’s Their Purpose?
  14. Giving False vs. Wrong Evidence: What’s the Difference?
  15. Can I Represent Myself in a Criminal Court Case in Singapore and How?
  16. Claiming Trial as an Accused
  17. Pleading Guilty in Singapore: Consequences & Withdrawal of Plea
  18. The Defence of Unsound Mind in Singapore: What is It?
  19. Gag Orders in Singapore: Whose Identity Can be Protected?
  20. Mitigation Plea: How to Plead for Leniency in Court in Singapore
After Criminal Proceedings
  1. Recidivism: What Happens If You Reoffend in Singapore?
  2. Guide to Filing a Criminal Appeal in Singapore
  3. Criminal Motion: What is It and How to File One in Singapore
  4. Guide to Filing a Criminal Revision in Singapore
  5. Presidential Clemency in Singapore
  6. Repatriation or Deportation from Singapore: How Does It Work?
  7. Criminal Records in Singapore
  8. Visiting a Loved One in Prison or On Death Row in Singapore
  9. Getting Parole (Early Prison Release) in Singapore
Types of Sentences After Committing an Offence
  1. Fined for an Offence: What to Do If I Can't Afford to Pay Them?
  2. How Long Is Life Imprisonment in Singapore? And Other FAQs
  3. Corrective Training and Its Consequences in Singapore
  4. Consequences of Receiving a Stern Warning in Singapore
  5. Probation: Eligibility and Whether It Leaves a Criminal Record
  6. How Can Adult Offenders Get Probation in Singapore?
  7. Reformative Training in Singapore: When Will It be Ordered?
  8. Are You Eligible for a Mandatory Treatment Order (MTO)?
  9. Caning in Singapore: Judicial, School & Parental Corporal Punishment
  10. 7 Detention Orders in Singapore: When Will They be Ordered?
  11. Day Reporting Order: Eligibility and Offender's Obligations
Being a Victim
  1. Ragging and Bullying: Their Penalties and What Victims Can Do
  2. Laws Protecting Informers/Whistleblowers in Singapore
  3. Counterfeit Medicine/Health Products: Redress for Victims in Singapore
  4. Breach of Protection Orders: What Can Victims Do?
  5. Using Your Right to Self-Defence When Attacked in Singapore
  6. Compensation for Crime Victims in Singapore: How to Obtain
Offences Against the Human Body
  1. Voluntarily Causing Hurt Penalties in Singapore (Non-Arrestable)
  2. Murder vs Culpable Homicide in Singapore (and Penalties)
  3. Is Suicide Illegal in Singapore? Will I Be Punished for Trying?
  4. Kidnapping Scam: Penalties & Responding to a ‘Kidnap Call/Text'
Sexual Offences
  1. Rape Laws in Singapore and How Offenders Can Be Punished
  2. Sexual Misconduct in Singapore: Offences and What Victims Can Do
  3. Falsely Accused of Rape in Singapore: What to Do
  4. Incest and Family Sexual Abuse: Penalties and Victim Protection
  5. How are Sexual Offenders with Special Needs Penalised?
  6. Cybersexual Crimes in Singapore and Their Penalties
  7. The Offence of Attempted Rape in Singapore: Law & Penalties
  8. Legal Age for Sex in Singapore and Common Sexual Offences
  9. Consent in Sexual Offences in Singapore and What Victims Can Do
  10. Accused of Molest: Outrage of Modesty in Singapore
  11. What Can Victims of Sexual Harassment in Singapore Do?
  12. What is the Law on Sexting in Singapore?
  13. Revenge Porn: What If Your Nudes are Leaked in Singapore?
  14. Crime of Voyeurism in Singapore (Penalties and Defences)
  15. Date Rape: What to Do If Your Drink Has Been Unlawfully Spiked?
  16. STDs: Can I Go to the Police If a Partner Infected Me in Singapore?
Vice-Related Offences
  1. Alcohol Breathalyser Test in Singapore: Can You Refuse it?
  2. Are Sex Toys and Sex Dolls Legal in Singapore?
  3. Singapore's Legal Smoking Age & Common Smoking Offences
  4. Is Vaping Illegal in Singapore?
  5. Legal Drinking Age and Drinking-Related Laws in Singapore
  6. Is Watching, Downloading or Filming Porn Illegal in Singapore?
  7. Child Pornography in Singapore: Offences and Penalties
  8. Laws on Procuring Sex Workers & Sexual Services in Singapore
  9. Singapore's Drug Laws: Possession, Consumption and Trafficking
  10. Gambling Legally (at Home, in Public or Online) in Singapore
  11. The Offence of Human Trafficking in Singapore and Its Penalties
Property Offences
  1. What is a Protected Area and Place in Singapore?
  2. Penalties For Buying Stolen Goods in Singapore
  3. Penalties for Committing Theft in Singapore
  4. Committing Robbery in Singapore: What are the Penalties?
  5. Penalties for Dishonest Misappropriation of Property in Singapore
  6. Vandalism Laws: Penalties for Damaging Property in Singapore
  7. Criminal Trespass in Singapore: What Happens If You’re Caught?
  8. Penalties for Littering Offences in Singapore
  1. What is a POFMA Correction Direction and How to Appeal
  2. Penalties for Cheating/Scamming and What Victims Can Do
  3. Penalties for Impersonating Someone and Victim Redress
  4. Singapore Fake News Laws: Guide to POFMA (Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act)
  5. Laws and Penalties for Doxxing in Singapore (With Examples)
White-Collar Crimes
  1. Tax Evasion in Singapore: Penalties and Examples
  2. Criminal Breach of Trust (CBT) in Singapore: What is It?
  3. All You Need to Know About Corruption in Singapore
  4. A Guide to Singapore’s Anti-Money Laundering Laws
  5. 5 Things You Need to Know about Insider Trading
  6. Dishonest Assistance and Knowing Receipt: The Case of David Rasif
Road Offences
  1. Charged with a Traffic Offence in Singapore: What to Do
  2. DUI: Here are the Penalties for Drink-Driving in Singapore
  3. What Happens If You’re Caught Speeding in Singapore?
  4. Road Rage: What is It and How are Offenders Sentenced in Singapore
  5. Penalties for Dangerous Driving for Singapore Drivers
  6. Fatal Traffic Accidents: Are Drivers Always Punished?
  7. Guide to E-Scooter and PMD Laws for Singapore Riders
  8. Is it Legal for Drivers to Carpool in Singapore?
Animal-Related Offences
  1. Taxidermy of Animals in Singapore: Is It Legal?
  2. Legal and Illegal Pets in Singapore (HDB/Private Property)
  3. Is It Illegal to Feed Stray Animals in Singapore?
  4. Animal Abuse in Singapore: Offences, Penalties & How to Report Abuse
Offences Relating to Public Peace and Good Order
  1. Radicalisation and Terror Attack-Related Penalties in Singapore
  2. Causing a Public Nuisance in Singapore: What are the Penalties?
  3. Causing Public Alarm in Singapore: Examples & Penalties
  4. Public Assemblies and Processions in Singapore
  5. Misbehaving in Public: 5 Things You Need to Know
  6. Racial Enmity: Sections 298 and 298A Penal Code Explained
  7. Religious Cults in Singapore: Are they Illegal? Penalties & More
  8. Penalties for Financing Terrorist Operations in Singapore
Gang and Riot-related Offences
  1. Penalties for Unlawful Assembly and Rioting in Singapore
  2. Is Joining a Gang Illegal in Singapore?: Being Recruited and Penalties
  3. Organised Crimes: Penalties/Orders Syndicates Face in Singapore
Marriage-Related Offences
  1. Bigamy: Is It Legal to Marry a Married Person in Singapore?
  2. Marriage Offences in Singapore Involving Minors, Same-Sex, Etc.
  3. What are Sham Marriages and Are They Illegal in Singapore?
Certificate of Clearance
  1. How Do You Apply for a Certificate of Clearance in Singapore?
Other Criminal Offences
  1. Penalties for Abetting Minors or Committing Crimes Against Them
  2. Misusing the Singapore Flag and Other National Symbols
  3. What are the Penalties for Committing Forgery in Singapore?
  4. Arson and Fire-Related Offences and Their Penalties in Singapore
  5. Offences Against the Dead and What Family Members Can Do
  6. Laws on Prohibited, Replica and Self-Defence Weapons
  7. Laws to Tackle High-Rise Littering in Singapore
  8. Penalties for Attempting to Commit a Crime in Singapore
  9. Penalties for Assaulting a Person in Singapore
  10. Is Dining & Dashing Illegal in Singapore?
  11. Expats Charged With Offences in Singapore: What to Expect
  12. What are the Penalties for Hiring Phantom Workers in Singapore?
  13. What Are Ponzi Schemes? Are They Illegal in Singapore?
  14. Modification of Cars, Motorcycles, Etc: Is It Legal in Singapore?
  15. Penalties for Illegal Immigration and Overstaying in Singapore
  16. Criminal Intimidation: Penalties for Making Threats in Singapore