Penalties for Attempting to Commit a Crime in Singapore

Last updated on February 4, 2022

man in gloves holding knife

There could be misconceptions that one would not be charged when an attempt to commit a crime has been unsuccessful in Singapore. However, the law states otherwise.

In this article, we will explore the possible penalties one may face when charged with attempting to commit an offence in Singapore. It will discuss:

What Constitutes an Attempt to Commit a Crime?

When someone tries but fails to commit an offence, he can be punished for the attempt if he had:

  • Had the intention of committing that offence, and
  • Taken a substantial step towards committing the offence.

Whether a “substantial step” had been taken depends on the facts of each case. For example, someone breaks open a safe box to steal some jewels. However, he realises that the safe is empty, and therefore his theft attempt has failed. Nevertheless, he had already broken open the safe box – where this constitutes a “substantial step” towards the commission of theft. Therefore, he could be found guilty of attempted theft.

The Penalties for Attempting to Commit a Crime in Singapore

Generally, when someone attempts to commit a crime, he can be given the same punishment as though he has succeeded in his attempt.

However, if the original offence calls for the death penalty or life imprisonment as punishment, then the offender will be punished with a jail term of up to 20 years, and be liable to a fine or caning, unless a different penalty is specifically provided for the attempt.

On the other hand, section 512(3) of the Penal Code states where the punishment prescribed for an offence is fixed by law, a specified minimum sentence or a mandatory minimum sentence of jail, fine or caning, then the court sentencing the person:

  • Is not bound to impose such fixed, specified or mandatory minimum sentence; and
  • Could possibly sentence an offender to a combination of sentences as the courts thinks fit without exceeding the maximum punishment prescribed for that particular offence.

A sentence that is fixed by law refers to one that is fixed in duration and in type. On the other hand, a specified minimum sentence is a sentence that the court is not obliged to impose, but if it does, then there is a minimum duration or sentence type that it must impose on the offender. Finally, a mandatory minimum sentence is a sentence that the court is obliged to impose, and that there is a compulsory minimum sentence it must impose when doing so.

In addition, some offences may also prescribe specific penalties for attempting to commit them. Therefore, this section will explore the penalties for attempting to commit these offences:

  1. Murder
  2. Robbery

Attempted murder 

One would be liable for attempted murder under section 307 of the Penal Code if the attempt had been made with the intention of causing death, even if it had not resulted in death of the victim.

The penalties for persons convicted of attempted murder depends on whether hurt has resulted from their actions.

  • No hurt: Offender will be jailed for up to 15 years and be liable to a fine.
  • Hurt had been caused: Offender will be:
    • Jailed for life and will also be liable to caning; or
    • Jailed for up to 20 years and be liable to a fine, caning or both.

Attempted robbery 

Following section 393 of the Penal Code, a person found guilty of attempting to commit robbery will be sentenced to a jail term of 2-7 years, along with caning of at least 6 strokes.

How Will Offenders be Sentenced for Attempting to Commit a Crime?

In general, the court will weigh the aggravating factors, which increase the severity of the crime, with the mitigating factors, which decrease the severity of the crime, to determine an appropriate sentence.

Aggravating factors could include:

  • The severity of the offence
  • The offence having been planned instead of committed on the spur of the moment
  • The victim being particularly vulnerable, such as being a child
  • The offender having committed similar crimes in the past

Mitigating factors would include:

  • The young age of the offender;
  • A first-time offender
  • Where there is evidence of genuine remorse or guilt on the offender’s part
  • Plea of guilt
  • Whether the offender had voluntarily offered to make compensation for their acts, such as returning stolen monies or paying for the victim’s medical bills

Certain offences may also have their own specific aggravating factors, as stated below.

Attempted murder 

In order to decide how an offender should be sentenced for attempted murder, the court will take into consideration factors such as the extent of injuries suffered by the victim and any public distress caused by the offender’s actions. The greater the number of injuries and their severity, the heavier the sentence tends to be. 

Attempted robbery

Aggravating factors specific to robbery include circumstances where:

  • It had been committed by a gang;
  • The offender had been armed with weapons; and/or
  • It had been committed between 7pm and 7am.

As seen from the discussion, persons who are caught attempting to commit offences in Singapore shouldn’t expect to get off lightly just because their attempt failed. They can be sentenced as if their attempt had succeeded.

If you have been charged with attempting to commit a crime, you should consider engaging a criminal defence lawyer to advise you on your matter.

The lawyer would be able to advise you on how you should proceed with your case as well as whether it is in your interests to claim trial or plead guilty.

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