Penalties for Abetting Minors or Committing Crimes Against Them
In Singapore, abetting minors into committing crimes or committing crimes against them can result in a conviction and penalties including imprisonment, fine and/or caning.
Committing crimes against minors occurs where an illegal act is carried out directly against a victim under the age of 21 years or younger. On the other hand, the offence of abetting minors into committing a crime involves causing a minor to commit an illegal act through instigating, engaging, or intentionally enabling the minor.
This article will explain the law relating to abetment or committing crimes against minors as well as the consequences of their contravention under Singapore law. It will discuss:
Who are Minors?
All persons under the age of 21 years are considered minors in Singapore. However, the relevant age of the minor may vary for different offences. For example, sexual penetration of a minor below 16 years old is illegal regardless of consent but for minors between 16 to 18 years old, the same act is illegal only where it had been exploitative.
Offences and Penalties for Abetting Minors Into Committing Crimes
For abetting minors into committing crimes, you are guilty even if:
- The crime is ultimately not committed; or
- A different offence is committed as long as it had been a probable consequence of the abettor’s influence.
Some crimes have specific penalties prescribed for abetting minors to commit them. Otherwise, where no penalties for the specific act amounting to abetment are provided, you will face the penalty prescribed for the offence abetted, even though you may not have committed it yourself. The following paragraphs discuss the prescribed penalties for abetting minors to commit certain offences involving substance abuse, sex offences and more.
Offering/selling drugs to minors
If you abet someone, regardless of whether they are a minor, to consume controlled drugs (whether within or outside Singapore), you can be imprisoned for 1 to 10 years and fined up to $20,000 for a first-time offence under the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA). This offence can apply if you were to offer or sell drugs to a minor.
Additionally, you can also be found guilty of permitting a minor below 21 years old to smoke or consume the drug. If convicted, you can be imprisoned for up to 10 years for a first-time offence.
For example, a woman who provided “ice” to secondary school students, prepared the drug and even provided a space to smoke them was jailed for 7 years and 9 months for violating multiple provisions under the MDA.
Offering/selling cigarettes or alcohol to minors
It is illegal to sell alcohol to minors under 18 years old. Anyone who abets the sale or purchase of alcohol to minors under 18 years old is liable to a fine of up to $5,000.
In relation to cigarettes, the minimum age for buying or smoking cigarettes is 21 years old. Likewise, it is illegal to sell or offer cigarettes to minors. If you obtain cigarettes for yourself and sell them to a minor, you may be fined up to $5,000 for the first-time offence and $10,000 for subsequent offences. Even if you do not receive any money or any benefit in return, simply giving a cigarette to a minor may also result in a fine of up to $500 for the first-time offence and $1,000 for subsequent offences.
If you buy cigarettes for the purpose of giving them to a minor, the penalty is enhanced to a fine of up to $2,500 for the first-time offence and $5,000 for subsequent offences even if you had not been paid to buy cigarettes on the minor’s behalf.
Apart from the penalties above for selling cigarettes to minors, if you are an authorised retailer of cigarettes, your tobacco retail licence may additionally be suspended for a first-time offence and revoked for subsequent offences. Your licence may be revoked even for a first-time offence if the minor had been under 12 years old or was in school uniform at the time of sale.
What if an adult solely uses a substance in the presence of a minor?
Whether you can be punished for using drugs in the presence of a minor depends on the circumstances. While using drugs where a minor is present is not explicitly criminalised,, it is illegal to leave drugs accessible to a child under 16 years old.
This prohibition applies if you knowingly or recklessly leave drugs exposed or stored without a lock, such as in a cabinet, while knowing that the child may access them. For this offence, you can face up to 10 years’ imprisonment for a first-time offence.
However, it is not illegal for a legal adult to consume alcohol or smoke in front of a minor.
Under the Films Act, it is illegal to make, possess, or otherwise deal in pornographic films in Singapore. If you cause or involve a minor below 18 years old in committing such offences, you may be fined up to $80,000, imprisoned for up to 12 months, or both for a first-time offence.
Abetting minors into committing murder or suicide
Besides the offences specified above, you can also be punished for abetting minors into committing murder or suicide.
In 2001, a man engaged a 15-year-old teenager to kill his estranged wife for $100,000 and even made the teen slash a bolster as practice. The teen was found guilty of murder but as he was under 18 years old, he was detained at the President’s pleasure instead of facing the usual punishment, which is the death penalty. However, for having abetted the teen’s act amounting to murder, the abettor received the penalty for murder and was hung.
While attempting suicide has been decriminalised in Singapore as of 1 January 2020, it remains illegal for anyone to abet the suicide or attempted suicide of minors below 18 years old. The penalty for these offences varies from the death penalty to 15 years’ imprisonment and a fine, depending on factors such as whether the suicide attempt succeeded or whether the minor was hurt in the process.
Offences and Penalties for Committing Crimes Against Minors
The law recognises the vulnerability of minors and protects them against various sexual offences including rape and sexual assault.
Offenders who are found guilty of committing rape against a minor under 14 years old can face up to 20 years’ imprisonment and either a fine or caning. Where the minor had not consented to the acts, or you are found to have been in an exploitative relationship with the minor, you can be imprisoned for a term between 8 to 20 years and receive 12 strokes of the cane.
Exploitative relationships include those between the minor and the minor’s parent (biological or otherwise), guardian, teacher, religious mentor, doctor or lawyer.
Where the offence involves sexual penetration of a minor who is 14 or older but below 16 years old, a sentence of up to 10 years’ imprisonment, a fine or both is given. If the relationship with the minor had been exploitative, the offender can be imprisoned for up to 20 years in addition to a fine or caning instead.
Other sexual offences against minors include:
- Commercial sex with someone under 18 years old (within or outside Singapore);
- Sexual grooming of someone under 16 years old;
- Sexual communication with someone under 16 years old; and
- Engaging in sexual activities in the presence of someone under 16 years old.
Child trafficking is criminalised in Singapore under the Prevention of Human Trafficking Act. It involves recruiting, transporting, harbouring or receiving someone under 18 years old to be exploited. For this offence, it is irrelevant that the victim’s consent was received or that the offender did not use coercion or bribery or had not abused their power over the minor.
How are Offenders Sentenced for Abetting/Committing Crimes Against Minors?
Once criminal liability is established, the sentence to be imposed is decided. This is usually limited by the prescribed maximum or minimum penalties to be imposed. However, within such limits, the sentence may be increased or decreased in severity by the aggravating and mitigating factors present in the case respectively. These are specific circumstances that may make a heavier or lighter sentence more appropriate.
Aggravating factors may include:
- An abuse of trust
- The vulnerability of the victim
- Relevant antecedents
- Lack of remorse
- Severe harm inflicted
Mitigating factors may include:
- The display of genuine remorse
- Youth of the offender
- Advanced age of the offender
- Admission of guilt
Ultimately, the weight of each factor depends on the specific facts and nature of the offence and the public interest in punishing a particular sort of behaviour. This can also be seen from the example of the woman who provided drugs to secondary school students above. There, her final sentence was increased in view of other charges relating to drugs and contraband cigarettes and the particularly devastating effect of drugs on the “young and impressionable” teens.
Are the Minors Involved Guilty of an Offence too?
This article has discussed the potential penalties you may face for abetting minors or committing crimes against them. However, the minor in question may also have committed an offence with a prescribed penalty. Generally, minors who are under 10 years old, or between 10 to 12 years old and aren’t mature enough to understand the nature and consequences of their actions, cannot be charged with a crime. However, minors who are older than that may be charged and dealt with in court.
In sentencing minors, rehabilitation is a dominant consideration. Thus, rehabilitative sentences such as probation, community service and corrective training or reformative training may be imposed instead of fines or jail terms unless the offence committed is a serious one. However, even for capital crimes, minors under 18 years old cannot be sentenced to death and will instead face life imprisonment if found guilty.
Parents are not liable for their child’s offence. However, they may be involved in discharging certain obligations, such as paying damages to the victims for any injury or harm caused by their child’s conduct. Moreover, parents should expect to be tasked with or involved in ensuring that their child attends court hearings and abides by the court’s orders.
If you have been charged with an offence for abetting or committing crimes against minors, it is highly advisable to engage a criminal lawyer, who will be able to review the specific facts and circumstances of your case and offer you advice on the next steps to be taken.
Alternatively, if you are a trusted adult of a minor who may have committed an offence, you may also wish to engage a lawyer.
The criminal law procedures in Singapore from investigation, arrest, court hearings, and sentencing can be complicated, especially where young offenders or young victims are involved. Minors may require additional assessment, treatment and protection, which may also affect the sentencing considerations in criminal proceedings.
Moreover, additional procedural arrangements such as applications for gag orders may be necessary to prevent the disclosure of information likely to identify the minors involved. A lawyer can help to obtain such a gag order as well as guide you and the minor through the criminal proceedings.
- What to Do If Your Loved One is Under Police Investigation
- How to Write a Letter of Representation to AGC in Singapore
- What is Entrapment and is It Legal in Singapore?
- What Happens When You Voluntarily Surrender to the Police
- Juvenile Crime: What If Your Child is Arrested in Singapore?
- Police Investigation Process for Crimes in Singapore (4 Steps)
- Arrest Warrant Issued Against You in Singapore: What to Do
- Police Arrest Procedure in Singapore
- Arrestable and Non-Arrestable Offences in Singapore
- What Should You Do If You Witness a Crime in Singapore?
- Can the Public Make a Citizen's Arrest in Singapore?
- What to Do If You’re Being Investigated for a Criminal Offence in Singapore
- "Right to Remain Silent" to Singapore Police: Does It Exist?
- Police Custody in Singapore: What You Should Know
- Search Warrant: The Issuance and Execution of It in Singapore
- Penalties for Lying to the Authorities in Singapore
- Can You Say No to a Lie Detector Test in Singapore? And Other FAQs
- Surrender of Passport to the Police and How to Get It Back
- Extradition: What If I Flee After Committing Crime in Singapore
- When is a Witness Testimony Unreliable in Singapore?
- Falsely Accused of a Crime in Singapore: Your Next Steps
- What is Acquittal & How Can One Be Acquitted in Singapore?
- Using the Defence of Diminished Responsibility in Singapore
- The "Unusually Convincing" Test in "He Said, She Said" Cases
- How to Adjourn or Postpone a Criminal Court Hearing
- TIC: Guide to Charges Taken Into Consideration in Singapore
- Can I Use the Defence of Intoxication in Singapore?
- When Can I Raise the Defence of Provocation in Singapore?
- Can I Represent Myself in a Criminal Court Case in Singapore and How?
- Claiming Trial as an Accused
- Pleading Guilty in Singapore: Consequences & Withdrawal of Plea
- The Defence of Unsound Mind in Singapore: What is It?
- Gag Orders in Singapore: Whose Identity Can be Protected?
- Mitigation Plea: How to Plead for Leniency in Court in Singapore
- Recidivism: What Happens If You Reoffend in Singapore?
- Guide to Filing a Criminal Appeal in Singapore
- Criminal Motion: What is It and How to File One in Singapore
- Guide to Filing a Criminal Revision in Singapore
- Presidential Clemency in Singapore
- Repatriation or Deportation from Singapore: How Does It Work?
- Criminal Records in Singapore
- Visiting a Loved One in Prison or On Death Row in Singapore
- Getting Parole (Early Prison Release) in Singapore
- Fined for an Offence: What to Do If I Can't Afford to Pay Them?
- How Long Is Life Imprisonment in Singapore? And Other FAQs
- Corrective Training and Its Consequences in Singapore
- Consequences of Receiving a Stern Warning in Singapore
- Probation: Eligibility and Whether It Leaves a Criminal Record
- How Can Adult Offenders Get Probation in Singapore?
- Reformative Training in Singapore: When Will It be Ordered?
- Are You Eligible for a Mandatory Treatment Order (MTO)?
- Caning in Singapore: Judicial, School & Parental Corporal Punishment
- 7 Detention Orders in Singapore: When Will They be Ordered?
- Day Reporting Order: Eligibility and Offender's Obligations
- Ragging and Bullying: Their Penalties and What Victims Can Do
- Laws Protecting Informers/Whistleblowers in Singapore
- Counterfeit Medicine/Health Products: Redress for Victims in Singapore
- Breach of Protection Orders: What Can Victims Do?
- Using Your Right to Self-Defence When Attacked in Singapore
- Compensation for Crime Victims in Singapore: How to Obtain
- Rape Laws in Singapore and How Offenders Can Be Punished
- Sexual Misconduct in Singapore: Offences and What Victims Can Do
- Falsely Accused of Rape in Singapore: What to Do
- Incest and Family Sexual Abuse: Penalties and Victim Protection
- How are Sexual Offenders with Special Needs Penalised?
- Cybersexual Crimes in Singapore and Their Penalties
- Legal Age for Sex in Singapore and Common Sexual Offences
- Consent in Sexual Offences in Singapore and What Victims Can Do
- 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)
- Date Rape: What to Do If Your Drink Has Been Unlawfully Spiked?
- STDs: Can I Go to the Police If a Partner Infected Me in Singapore?
- Alcohol Breathalyser Test in Singapore: Can You Refuse it?
- Singapore's Legal Smoking Age & Common Smoking Offences
- Is Vaping Illegal in Singapore?
- Legal Drinking Age and Drinking-Related Laws in Singapore
- Is Watching, Downloading or Filming Porn Illegal in Singapore?
- Child Pornography in Singapore: Offences and Penalties
- Laws on Procuring Sex Workers & Sexual Services in Singapore
- Singapore's Drug Laws: Possession, Consumption and Trafficking
- Gambling Legally (In Public or Online) in Singapore
- The Offence of Human Trafficking in Singapore and Its Penalties
- Penalties for Committing Theft in Singapore
- Committing Robbery in Singapore: What are the Penalties?
- Penalties for Dishonest Misappropriation of Property in Singapore
- Vandalism Laws: Penalties for Damaging Property in Singapore
- Criminal Trespass in Singapore: What Happens If You’re Caught?
- Penalties for Littering and Killer Litter Offences in Singapore
- What is a POFMA Correction Direction and How to Appeal
- Penalties for Cheating/Scamming and What Victims Can Do
- Penalties for Impersonating Someone and Victim Redress
- Singapore Fake News Laws: Guide to POFMA (Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act)
- Laws and Penalties for Doxxing in Singapore (With Examples)
- Tax Evasion in Singapore: Penalties and Examples
- Criminal Breach of Trust (CBT) in Singapore: What is It?
- All You Need to Know About Corruption in Singapore
- Anti-Money Laundering Laws and You
- 5 Things You Need to Know about Insider Trading
- Dishonest Assistance and Knowing Receipt: The Case of David Rasif
- Charged with a Traffic Offence in Singapore: What to Do
- DUI: Here are the Penalties for Drink-Driving in Singapore
- What Happens If You’re Caught Speeding in Singapore?
- Road Rage: What is It and How are Offenders Sentenced in Singapore
- Penalties for Dangerous Driving for Singapore Drivers
- Fatal Traffic Accidents: Are Drivers Always Punished?
- Guide to E-Scooter and PMD Laws for Singapore Riders
- Is it Legal for Drivers to Carpool in Singapore?
- Radicalisation and Terror Attack-Related Penalties in Singapore
- Public Assemblies and Processions in Singapore
- Misbehaving in Public: 5 Things You Need to Know
- Racial Enmity: Sections 298 and 298A Penal Code Explained
- Religious Cults in Singapore: Are they Illegal? Penalties & More
- Penalties for Financing Terrorist Operations in Singapore
- Penalties for Abetting Minors or Committing Crimes Against Them
- Here are the Penalties for Committing Forgery in Singapore
- Arson and Fire-Related Offences and Their Penalties in Singapore
- Offences Against the Dead and What Family Members Can Do
- Laws on Prohibited, Replica and Self-Defence Weapons
- Penalties for Attempting to Commit a Crime in Singapore
- Penalties for Assaulting a Person in Singapore
- Expats Charged With Offences in Singapore: What to Expect
- What are the Penalties for Hiring Phantom Workers in Singapore?
- What Are Ponzi Schemes? Are They Illegal in Singapore?
- Penalties for Illegal Immigration and Overstaying in Singapore
- Criminal Intimidation: Penalties for Making Threats in Singapore