Consequences of Receiving a Stern Warning in Singapore
What is a Stern Warning?
A stern warning, often described as a “slap on the wrist”, is a warning issued to individuals in Singapore in lieu of prosecution after a criminal investigation is closed.
Stern warnings seek to deter individuals from committing offences and may be issued verbally or in written form. They do not come with any conditions attached.
In September 2020, Member of Parliament Raeesah Khan was issued a stern warning for her comments made on social media that allegedly promoted enmity among different racial and religious groups, and scandalised the court.
When May a Stern Warning be Issued?
A stern warning may be issued at various stages of criminal proceedings. For example, an individual may be issued a stern warning:
- While being investigated for an offence (even if he is not ultimately charged with an offence); or
- After being charged with an offence.
It is unclear how much evidence the authorities will need in order to decide to issue a stern warning. However, stern warnings are generally given only to individuals who have never been convicted of an offence before. Individuals who have previously been convicted of an offence are unlikely to receive stern warnings.
How is a Stern Warning Different From a Conditional Warning?
Apart from a stern warning, there is also a type of warning known as the conditional warning. Unlike stern warnings, conditional warnings come with conditions that the individual has to comply with.
For example, a condition of the conditional warning may require an individual to not commit any offence for a period of time (such as 12 months).
If any condition in the conditional warning is breached, the authorities have the right to prosecute the individual for the original offence that he had been warned for, and also for any fresh offences committed.
In April 2019, NUS undergraduate Nicholas Lim was issued a conditional warning for trespassing into a female washroom and filming a female student in the shower without her consent.
What are the Consequences of Being Issued a Stern Warning?
Will the offence for which a stern warning was issued be part of the individual’s criminal record?
A stern warning is not a criminal conviction.
Accordingly, individuals who have been given stern warnings in relation to certain offences will not have a criminal record for those offences.
However, records of stern warnings are maintained by the police. It is unclear how long these records will be kept for.
What happens if the individual had already been charged with an offence before receiving the stern warning?
If the individual had already been charged with an offence before receiving the stern warning, a Discharge Amounting to an Acquittal (DATA) will be issued. The DATA indicates that the individual is found not guilty of an offence, and the criminal charge will be dropped.
If the individual had been given a conditional warning after being charged with an offence, the DATA will be issued only after all conditions in the conditional warning have been complied with.
Can an individual who has been given a Discharge Not Amounting to an Acquittal receive a stern warning?
Apart from a DATA, it is also possible for an individual to receive a Discharge Not Amounting to an Acquittal (also known as DNATA or DNAQ).
An individual who has been given a DNATA may still be prosecuted for the offence in the future. This could happen if new evidence becomes available, for example.
However, it is possible for an individual who has been given a DNATA to later receive a stern warning if the prosecution decides to drop the charge.
Will offences for which stern warnings have been issued be taken as past criminal behaviour?
Stern warnings (and conditional warnings) have no legal effect and are not binding on individuals who have received them.
As a result, they cannot be treated as criminal antecedents (i.e. previous convictions) if the individual is being sentenced for a different offence later on.
Can the individual who has received the stern warning still be subject to private prosecution over the same conduct?
In a private prosecution, an individual (or his lawyer) will be the one prosecuting the accused, instead of a Public Prosecutor. You can read more about private prosecutions in our other article.
In Singapore, it is still an open question whether an individual who has received a stern warning can still be subject to private prosecution.
While this appears to be the case in the UK, it remains to be seen whether local courts will adopt a similar position.
Can the individual still be sued over the same conduct?
An individual who has been issued a stern warning can still be sued by the victim(s) in respect of his actions.
In some cases, the issuance of a stern warning may form part of the victim’s case in proving their cause of action.
We hope that this article has helped you better understand the issuance and consequences of stern warnings and conditional warnings in Singapore.
Nevertheless, given that there are many uncertainties with regard to the issuance of stern warnings, it might be best for those being issued with stern warnings to seek legal advice from a criminal lawyer on how to proceed.
- Police Investigation Process in Singapore
- 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
- Is Lying to the Police or Authorities an Offence 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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?
- 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
- Is it illegal to visit prostitutes 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
- 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?
- Public Assemblies and Processions in Singapore: Police Permits and the Public Order Act
- 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