Falsely Accused of Rape in Singapore: What to Do

Last updated on May 20, 2021

Upset and worried man sitting against the wall with a hand on his forehead

False reports of rape are filed against men in Singapore from time to time. If you become a victim of such a false report, the investigation and possible prosecution will likely be a very distressing experience for you.

In Singapore, the maximum sentence for a conviction for a single charge of rape is 20 years in addition to caning or a fine. If you are facing such a sentence for a crime you didn’t commit, you might quite understandably feel wronged, victimised and unable to go about your normal life unless and until the matter is resolved.

Very often, rape cases boil down to a “he said, she said” contest. If law enforcement and the trial judge find the complainant’s testimony to be credible, this in practice can be sufficient to convict you without any further evidence.

In light of the very serious consequences and the high risk of conviction if you are falsely accused of rape, what should you do about it? Read on to learn:

What to Do If You’ve Been Falsely Accused of Rape in Singapore

Engage a criminal lawyer

The first thing you need to do is engage a criminal lawyer to advise you with reference to the specific facts in your case. With the stakes so high, there is no good reason not to secure legal representation. If you cannot afford to engage a lawyer, apply for criminal legal aid.

Determine the category of the rape allegation and the steps you can take accordingly

False rape allegations can be divided into two broad categories. These are false allegations of rape in circumstances where you:

  1. Have not had sex with the complainant at all; or you
  2. Have had consensual sex with the complainant.

Where you have not had sex with the complainant at all

For the first category, you may be able to begin gathering evidence in your defence if you can discover during your police interrogation when and where the rape was alleged to have occurred.

If you have an alibi or other evidence that shows you were elsewhere at the time of the alleged rape, this will help immensely. The absence of any physical or forensic evidence to support an allegation in this context may also be helpful, but alone, does not definitely prove anything.

Where you have had consensual sex with the complainant

The second category is arguably more troubling. In this case, there may well be physical or forensic evidence proving that you have had sex with the complainant and you will not be challenging this.

Instead, your defence will turn entirely on whether the complainant had consented to sexual intercourse. This is something that does not lend itself easily to independent verification since third-party witnesses are seldom present during sexual intercourse. Also, more often than not, there is no video footage of the complainant’s consent being obtained.

There is a raft of mobile phone applications such as Consent Amour, LegalFling, The Consent App, YesMeansYes, We-Consent and uConsent designed to record participants’ consent to sexual intercourse in writing before it commences.

The problems with these apps is that firstly, couples are realistically unlikely to choose to pull out their phones to pore over a legal document whilst in the midst of foreplay, meaning that using these apps may simply be impractical.

Secondly, participants can withdraw consent to sex at any point. This renders any written consent given earlier essentially useless as a defence against a rape charge.

In any case, if you are reading this, you may already have been falsely accused of rape, in which case it is too late to consider the use of these apps.

For this second category of cases where sex with the complainant had been consensual, almost all cases boil down to a “he said, she said” contest, where the more consistent and compelling testimony ultimately prevails. For these cases, the best you can do is:

  • Retrace your steps on the day in question
  • Write down to the best of your recollection everything that you and the complainant said and did on that day
  • Write down everything you said and wrote during your police interrogation, memorise it and keep your story consistent every time you retell it.

Decide whether to enter into a plea bargain or claim trial

If you are charged, your lawyer will, as a matter of course, explore with the prosecution the possibility of a plea bargain. Even if you are innocent, it would be wise to at least consider any reasonable plea bargain involving a short prison term, particularly if:

  • No caning would be imposed;
  • Your lawyer advises that the evidentiary record in your case tilts in favour of a conviction, based on her experience with similar cases; or
  • Your lawyer advises that the outcome is highly unpredictable.

However, whether to accept the plea bargain is ultimately a decision for you to make with the benefit of your lawyer’s advice. If you decide that clearing your name is worth the risk of over a decade in prison plus caning, you have a right to a trial and to put the prosecution to strict proof of the charges against you.

What if the Rape Is Alleged to Have Happened Many Years Ago?

Note that rapes that are alleged to have occurred many years ago remain theoretically prosecutable in Singapore indefinitely. This is because there is no criminal statute of limitations in Singapore that states a “deadline” for when criminal cases must be prosecuted by.

However, old legacy cases like these can be particularly difficult to prove or disprove, due to the inherent frailty of human memory and the typical lack of any physical evidence.

What Happens if the Rape Allegations Are Proven False?

If law enforcement or the prosecution determine that the complainant fabricated the allegations against you, then they may, should they think it appropriate to do so, prosecute the complainant for giving false information to a public servant. This is typically punishable with a very short term of imprisonment.

There have been a number of such prosecutions where the complainants were foreign domestic workers who had falsely accused their employers, or the family members of their employers, of raping them. Some of the men accused of rape in these cases were arrested and held in police lock-up during the course of investigations.

However, when the rape accusations were found to be false, the foreign domestic workers who made them were sentenced to prison for between 2 weeks and 3 months.

Can You Sue the Complainant for Making False Rape Allegations in Singapore?

Apart from the criminal legal consequences to complainants for making false rape allegations, there are also potential civil legal consequences.

You could sue a complainant for defamation for the reputational damage done to you by their false allegations at any time before, during or after your investigation or prosecution.

However, it may be prudent to wait until you are cleared of any charges before commencing civil legal action. Otherwise, there is a risk that information that arises during the civil case could be used against you in the criminal case.

Furthermore, if the criminal case concludes with a finding that you are not guilty, or indeed with the prosecution of the complainant for making a false police report, some of the evidence discovered during the course of the criminal case may be helpful to you in mounting a claim for defamation.

However, note that if the criminal case concludes with a finding that there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of rape, then this may not be sufficient evidence to help prove your defamation suit against the complainant that they had, on a balance of probabilities, lied about being raped by you.

In any case, given the overlap of evidentiary issues between a criminal rape case and a civil defamation case for a false allegation of rape, it is inadvisable to have both cases run concurrently.

The legal issues involved in cases of false rape allegations are complex and the stakes are very high. Accordingly, it is highly recommended that you engage a criminal lawyer to advise and represent you immediately if you are accused of rape in Singapore. That lawyer can then advise you on the best approach for responding to those allegations in light of the facts of your case.

You may get in touch with experienced criminal lawyers here.

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