Guide to Personal Protection Orders in Singapore
What is a Personal Protection Order (PPO)?
The Personal Protection Order (PPO) is a court order available under Part VII of the Women’s Charter. It is supplemented by the Expedited Order (EO) and the Domestic Exclusion Order (DEO). The PPO, EO, and the DEO are all intended to function as court orders against family violence.
To successfully apply for a PPO, 2 elements must be proved:
- An act of family violence has been committed / is likely to be committed against a family member; and
- A PPO is necessary for the protection of that family member.
What is considered family violence?
As defined in section 64 of the Women’s Charter, “family violence” means the commission of any of the following acts:
- Wilfully or knowingly placing, or attempting to place, a family member in fear of hurt;
- Causing hurt to a family member by such act which is known or ought to have been known would result in hurt;
- Wrongfully confining or restraining a family member against his will; or
- Causing continual harassment with intent to cause or knowing that it is likely to cause anguish to a family member.
Medical reports or police reports can be used to prove the history of family violence. However, “family violence” does not include any force lawfully used in self-defence, or by way of correction towards a child below 21 years of age. As a result, milder forms of violence used to discipline a child (e.g. caning) do not constitute family violence.
Who is considered a family member?
A family member is defined in section 64 of the Women’s Charter as:
- A spouse or former spouse of the person;
- A child of the person, including an adopted child and a step-child;
- A father or mother of the person;
- A father-in-law or mother-in-law of the person;
- A brother or sister of the person; or
- Any other relative of the person or an incapacitated person who in the opinion of the court should, in the circumstances, in either case be regarded as a member of the family of the person.
Who Can Obtain a PPO in Singapore?
The PPO, EO, and DEO are available to Singapore citizens, all persons in Singapore, and all persons domiciled in Singapore. This includes members of Muslim families in Singapore.
You can file a PPO application to protect yourself, or your children aged under 21, or an incapacitated family member, from family violence if you are at least 21 years of age.
If you are below 21 and married or have previously been married (e.g. the abuser is your former spouse), you can also file an application.
The Range of Protective Orders Available in a PPO Application
The court can make a wide variety of different types of protection orders after receiving a PPO application. Under section 65(5) of the Women’s Charter, these protection orders include:
- A personal protection order (PPO);
- An expedited order (EO);
- A domestic exclusion order (DEO); and
- A counselling order (CGO).
(This article will collectively refer to all these protection orders as “PPOs” unless otherwise stated.)
Personal Protection Order (PPO)
The PPO restrains the abuser from committing family violence. A PPO when the court feels that family violence has been or is likely to be committed and that a protection order is necessary (as mentioned above).
The PPO may also include a term restraining the abuser from inciting or assisting anyone to commit family violence against the family member.
Expedited Order (EO)
The Expedited Order (EO) is an urgent and temporary PPO made without going through a trial. By virtue of section 66 of the Women’s Charter, the court has power to grant an EO immediately upon application of a PPO, if it is satisfied that there is imminent danger of family violence. You do not need to apply for the EO.
The EO is valid only for 28 days or when the trial for the application of a PPO begins, whichever occurs earlier. This is unlike PPOs whose duration will depend on what the court orders.
When the EO expires, a second EO can be ordered.
Domestic Exclusion Order (EO)
Under section 65(5)(a) of the Women’s Charter, Domestic Exclusion Orders (DEOs) ban the abuser from the house in which the family has been living in. The DEO can either ban the abuser from the whole house, or only certain parts of the house.
The DEO does not affect or transfer the title or ownership of the house. It can be made to exclude, for instance, a husband from the house, even though the husband is the sole owner of the house.
Counselling Order (CGO)
The counselling order (CGO) refers parties in a PPO application to counselling and is made concurrently with a PPO. Counselling is conducted at a family support agency and children may need to attend as well.
Around 6 to 9 months after the CGO is made, the court will fix a counselling review date for the court to assess the progress of the counselling and to either discharge or continue with the order.
Difference between PPOs and POs under the Protection from Harassment Act
There is also an option to apply for a Protection Order (PO) under the Protection from Harassment Act. However, this PO is different from a PPO under the Women’s Charter.
Both PPOs and POs protect the applicant or applicant’s children from violence. However, PPOs provide protection against family violence while POs provide protection against harassment-related acts such as threatening or abusive words or behaviour, and unlawful stalking.
A PPO can only be applied against a family member, while Protection Order (PO) can be applied for against both family and non-family members (such as friends, colleagues or strangers).
Read our other article to learn more about POs in Singapore and decide whether a PPO under the Women’s Charter or a PO under the Protection from Harassment Act would be more suited for your situation.
How to Apply for a PPO in Singapore
When applying for a PPO, consider submitting a draft application online via iFAMS (Integrated Family Application Management Systems) first. Doing so is not compulsory, but it will save time.
The documents you will need for this are soft copies of any medical reports and police reports that you are relying on.
To file a PPO application under iFAMS, prepare your application by logging into iFAMS with your SingPass ID. Once logged in, you will then be able to create a draft application for your PPO. A step-by-step guide to filing an application under iFAMS can be found here.
After completing your draft, proceed to the Family Protection Centre at the Family Justice Courts to verify your documents and complete your application. If going to court is not convenient, you can also complete your application at any one of the following Family Violence Specialist Centres (FVSCs):
A Court Family Specialist may also provide counselling on your safety before you make your application.
Once you have made your application, a judge will review it. If your application is in order, the judge will direct that a summons be issued to the alleged abuser (also known as the respondent). You will have to pay a nominal $1 for the summons to be issued.
Depending on the situation, the judge may also direct that an EO be issued for your protection (as mentioned above).
The court’s process server will serve the summons personally on the respondent at the address you have provided in your application.
If the summons is successfully served, your case will proceed for mention (which usually takes around 5 minutes). During the mention, a court officer will inform the respondent of your complaint. If the respondent agrees with your complaint and also that a PPO should be issued, the judge may issue the PPO. The PPO may also come with a counselling order.
If the respondent does not agree with your complaint, the judge may arrange for a Court Family Specialist to speak with both parties and try and resolve the matter.
If the matter is resolved, the judge may issue the PPO. However if the matter is still not resolved, the matter will proceed for a court hearing. During the hearing, the court will review both parties’ evidence and hear witnesses before deciding whether to issue the PPO.
How Long Might It Take for You to Get a PPO?
You may be able to get a PPO within 1 to 2 months of the application if the respondent agrees with the complaint in your application.
If the matter proceeds for a court hearing, you may only get the PPO within 3 to 5 months of the application, or longer.
How Long Does a PPO Last?
There is no fixed duration for PPOs. The court will determine the appropriate duration for the PPO according to the facts of the case.
What If You’re Afraid of Seeing the Respondent as Part of the PPO Application?
If you fear facing the respondent in court, inform a counsellor or one of the staff at the Family Protection Centre. It is possible to arrange for you to attend court mentions via video-link from another location. (Attendance via video-link is not available for court hearings.)
It is also possible for you to be counselled separately from the respondent during counselling sessions.
Absence from Court
Should the respondent be absent from court without a valid reason, the court may issue a Warrant of Arrest against the respondent.
If you (the applicant) are absent from court, your PPO application will be struck out.
What If You’re Dissatisfied with the Order?
If you are dissatisfied with the order, you may appeal to a judge of the High Court.
This is done by filing a Notice of Appeal within 14 days of receiving the court’s order. You will also need to pay security for costs (i.e. a sum of money to cover the other party’s costs should your appeal fail).
What to Do if the PPO is Disobeyed
Where the respondent breaches the terms of the PPO, you should immediately make a police report.
For breaching the PPO, the respondent can be fined up to $2,000 or jailed for up to 6 months, or both. Repeat offenders can be fined up to $5,000, jailed for up to 12 months or both.
The penalties are higher if the PPO breached relates to the protection of a vulnerable adult (i.e. a person aged 18 or older who is unable to protect himself or herself from abuse, due to a physical or mental condition). A first-time offender can be fined up to $2,000 or jailed for up to 12 months, or both. Repeat offenders can be fined up to $8,000, jailed for up to 18 months or both.
Variation, Suspension or Revocation of a PPO, EO, or DEO
Upon application by either the applicant or the respondent, the court has the power to vary, suspend or revoke the PPO.
The procedure to apply to revoke, suspend or vary a PPO order is similar to that of applying for a new PPO. However, you will not need any of your past medical or police reports. Instead, you will need the court order for the PPO and your identification document such as your NRIC or passport.
Where relations have completely mended between you and the respondent, you may wish to apply to revoke the PPO.
If relations between you and the respondent have improved to the point where a PPO is unnecessary at that juncture, but you do not wish to have it completely revoked, you can apply to suspend the PPO.
You may also apply to vary the PPO to make it more stringent or flexible.
In 2018, the court varied the terms of a 5-year PPO issued against a woman who was the sole caregiver of her mother, who suffered from dementia, and her intellectually-disabled sister. The woman’s mother and sister stayed at separate nursing homes and the woman was allowed to visit them. The woman had sought to have the PPO revoked as she was dissatisfied with how the nursing homes had treated her family.
However, the court found that the woman displayed “an over-zealousness in supervising the nursing home staff” and decided to vary the PPO’s terms so as to restrict the woman’s access to her family even more instead.
Do You Need a Lawyer to Apply for a PPO in Singapore?
A lawyer is not necessary in applying for a PPO in Singapore. However, it may be helpful to engage one.
The lawyer can help ensure your application is submitted correctly, represent you in court, and ultimately help with your chances of successfully obtaining a PPO against the alleged abuser. You can get in touch with experienced PPO lawyers here.
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