Compounding or composition of offences in Singapore

Last updated on August 21, 2014

Under the laws of Singapore, the compounding of an offence (also known as “a composition”) refers to the settlement of a charge (without entering a conviction) between the alleged victim and the accused. Usually, the accused makes monetary compensation and offers an apology to the alleged victim. When an offence has been compounded, the accused is effectively acquitted of his crime.

When is an offence compoundable?

The Fourth Schedule to the Criminal Procedure Code(“CPC”) provides a list of offences that may be compounded, and the person who may compound the offence.

Part I of the Schedule prescribes the Penal Code offences that may be compounded. Part II of the Schedule prescribes the compoundable offences under the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act.

Additionally, other written laws may also prescribe particular compoundable offences. For instance, the Enlistment (Composition of Offences) Regulations prescribe the compoundable offences and the conditions of compounding, for the offences committed under the Enlistment Act – Singapore’s military conscription law. Minor traffic offences are also typically compoundable.

Who may compound an offence?

Usually, only the alleged victim may compound an offence. However, as to the compoundable offences listed in the Fourth Schedule, where police investigations have commenced, or where the accused has been charged in court for that offence, they may only be compounded with the consent of the Public Prosecutor. This is provided for in section 241 of the CPC.

Separately, section 242 of the CPC confers the Public Prosecutor with the power to compound offences by collecting from the accused a sum of money which shall not exceed one half of the amount of the maximum fine that is prescribed for the offence; or $5,000, whichever is the lower.

As to other victimless crimes, like an offence under the Enlistment Act, these offences are usually compoundable by the relevant authorities.

How is the compounding of an offence initiated?

Compounding is usually initiated by the accused and his lawyer.

What forms may the compounding of an offence take?

A composition is not invariably in the form of financial compensation. It could also be (a) a sincere apology to the alleged victim, (b) an undertaking not to repeat the offending behaviour, or (c) even the accused performing a charitable deed – such as making a donation to charity.

Is an attempt or abetment of a compoundable offence compoundable too?

As provided for in section 241(2) of the CPC, when any offence is compoundable, the abetment of the offence, or an attempt to commit the offence when the attempt is itself an offence, may be compounded in the same way.

What if the person who may offer to compound the offence is not legally competent to offer composition?

As provided for in section 241(1) of the CPC, when the person who would otherwise be competent to compound an offence is a minor, an idiot or a lunatic, any person competent to contract on his behalf may compound the offence on his or her behalf.

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