Compensation for Crime Victims in Singapore: How to Obtain
Victims of offences may wonder if they can be compensated for the harm that has been caused to them by the offender in question. This concern is especially relevant when suing the offender for compensation is not a financially viable option.
Furthermore, depending on the duration of the trial, it might be a long time before the victim can receive damages for the harm that has been caused.
Such a concern might be put at ease by the court making a compensation order under section 359 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC).
This article will cover:
- What is a compensation order?
- When would a compensation order be made?
- How the compensation would be quantified?
- How the compensation will be paid
- Consequences of non-payment of compensation by the offender
- What if the compensation received is insufficient?
- What if the court decides not to order compensation?
What is a Compensation Order?
If a person has been convicted of an offence, the court may order for that offender to pay compensation to the victim if the court finds it appropriate to do so.
Such a compensation order is meant to allow you or your representative to recover compensation without having to sue for such compensation, especially if suing might be an inadequate or impractical course of action.
If granted, the compensation order will be made in addition to the offender’s existing sentence (such as a jail term and/or a fine).
When Would a Compensation Order be Made?
The court would make a compensation order only if it is appropriate to do so.
This could be where:
- The compensation amount is easily determinable
- Suing the offender is not a more appropriate remedy
- The compensation order will not cause undue hardship on the offender
Where the compensation amount is easily determinable
The court is more likely to make a compensation order if the amount of compensation to be ordered is easily determinable.
For example, a victim suffers hurt due to not only the actions of the offender, but possibly also due to a number of other reasons. In this case, the amount of compensation to be ordered may be more difficult to determine.
The court will need to do a detailed analysis of the extent of the hurt caused by the offender to decide how much compensation the offender should pay. As a result, the court may choose not to make a compensation order.
Where suing the offender is not a more appropriate remedy
The court must also be satisfied that suing the offender for compensation will not be a more appropriate remedy before it makes such a compensation order. Such instances include where:
- The costs of suing the offender outweigh the amount of damages that may be claimed from the suit;
- The victim is unable to afford the potentially hefty costs involved in suing the offender for compensation;
In that regard, cases that are more appropriately dealt with via a lawsuit include traffic accident matters where insurable losses need to be quantified, or where the Motor Insurers’ Bureau may step in to provide compensation.
Where the compensation order will not cause undue hardship on the offender
At the same time, the court will only make an order for a compensation order if it is not oppressive to the offender. The court must be satisfied that the offender will have the means to pay the compensation to you within a reasonable time.
For example, in the case of PP v Natarajan Baskaran and Venkatachalam Thirumurugan, the court decided against ordering the offender to pay compensation to the victim as the offender would not have been able to afford to do so.
How the Compensation Would be Quantified?
The amount of compensation will be determined based on what will be enough to compensate the victim for the losses suffered.
For example, if you incurred medical bills due to injuries caused by the offender, the compensation amount may be the full amount of such bills.
It is also important to note that the amount of compensation ordered will not exceed what would be reasonably obtainable in a lawsuit.
The severity of the offence will also not affect the amount of compensation ordered.
Examples where victims have been compensated
The following are examples of when the court found it appropriate to make a compensation order.
- Domestic abuse of maids. Generally, the court would find it appropriate to order a compensation order where a maid has been a victim of abuse. The victim may receive compensation for:
- Pain and suffering;
- Medical expenses;
- Loss or damage to the victim’s property; and
- Prospective earnings
- Cheating. For example, the court has previously ordered a company director to pay compensation to two primary schools after he cheated their principals into awarding his company bus service contracts that it was unable to fulfil. As a result, the schools had to engage alternative bus services, incurring losses that the company director was ordered to compensate for.
- Rape. In one rape case, the court ordered the offender to make compensation for the costs of the victim’s psychotherapy treatment to help her cope with the psychological and emotional effects of the sexual assault.
- When hurt was caused to the victim. In one case, the offender, Loo Yue Liang, punched the victim, causing mild inflammation and swelling on his nose and right cheek. The victim also fell to the ground, resulting in him suffering abrasions on his left elbow. In deciding the amount for the compensation order, the court considered the following factors:
- Medical bill incurred due to the injuries caused by the offender;
- Evidence of loss of income resulting from the injury;
- Evidence of loss of income resulting from the victim having to take medical leave; and
- Compensation for pain and suffering
- Theft. In a theft case, the offender, Seah Kim Hock, stole $1,100 from the victim. The court found that it was appropriate to make a compensation order as it would not have been financially viable for the victim to sue Seah for the stolen money. Further, there was a clear link between the loss suffered by the victim for which the compensation was sought, and the offences committed by Seah.
How the Compensation Will be Paid
Should the court order the offender to pay you compensation, it may be paid through:
- A seizure and sale of any property that the offender might own, with the sale proceeds going to you
- Appointing a receiver to take possession and sell any property owned by the offender, with the sale proceeds going to you
- Searching the offender and giving you any money found on him, up to the full amount of compensation
Consequences of Non-Payment of Compensation by the Offender
Subject to the court’s discretion, non-payment of compensation could result in the offender being imprisoned. This duration of imprisonment will be decided by the court.
What If the Compensation Received is Insufficient?
Ideally, compensation orders made by the court should be sufficient to cover the different categories of claim that you are claiming for, such as medical bills and loss of income. Nonetheless, should the compensation sum be insufficient, you may still be able to seek recourse in a civil lawsuit.
It is however important to note that this claim for the same injury under a civil lawsuit cannot include the amount that has already been paid under the compensation order.
Thus, the amount that the offender would have to pay will be calculated as follows:
Amount that the offender has to pay = [Amount the court orders in a civil lawsuit] – [Amount that the offender has already paid under the criminal compensation order]
What If the Court Decides Not to Order Compensation?
As mentioned above, the court has the discretion to decide whether to order compensation, which means that victims are not guaranteed compensation.
However, if you are a victim of assault, you may still be able to claim compensation under the Community Justice Centre’s Victim Assistance Scheme (VAS) if the court decides not to order compensation for your case.
The amount of compensation is meant to cover losses you have suffered from the incident, such as medical expenses and loss of income, and is capped at $1,000.
Who can apply for the VAS
You may apply for the VAS if all of the following requirements are met:
- The offence took place in Singapore;
- The offender is convicted of:
- Voluntarily causing hurt;
- Voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means;
- Voluntarily causing grievous hurt;
- Voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means;
- Voluntarily causing hurt to extort property or to constrain to an illegal act; and/or
- Causing hurt by means of poison etc., with intent to commit an offence
- You are unable to seek any compensation from the offender for the injuries you have sustained
How to apply for the VAS
The application for the scheme can be made through the Investigating Officer of the case by:
- You, the primary victim who has suffered direct physical or emotional harm or death as a result of a crime (provided you are over the age of 18);
- Your parent or legal guardian if you are a minor; or
- The spouse or an adult dependant of a deceased victim
Additionally, you should also keep all original receipts regarding any expenses that you are seeking to claim under this scheme. This is because the Community Justice Centre accepts only original receipts when deciding whether to allow your claim, and how much compensation to grant.
As crime victims are not guaranteed compensation for harm caused by offenders, it is best to seek professional advice from a lawyer on this issue if you find yourself seeking criminal compensation from an offender.
A lawyer will be able to advise you on whether obtaining criminal compensation is a possible option for the losses you have suffered, and if not, whether applying for the VAS or pursuing a civil lawsuit are more viable alternatives.
Furthermore, the lawyer would also be able to advise you on the types of evidence that you may need to be adduce for the purposes of obtaining compensation from the offender.
You can get in touch with experienced criminal lawyers here.
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