Penalties for Unlawful Assembly and Rioting in Singapore
In the aftermath of the 2013 Little India riot, 25 men were charged with rioting and unlawful assembly, among other charges. While many have the misconception that rioting and unlawful assembly involves large groups of people, this need not always be the case.
For example, just 5 men were arrested for suspected involvement in a rioting case near Havelock Road in August 2016.
This article will cover what constitutes the offences of unlawful assembly and rioting (and related offences such as affray), their penalties and the next steps you can take if you have been charged with such offences.
What is an Unlawful Assembly?
An unlawful assembly is defined in section 141 of the Penal Code as an assembly of 5 or more persons with one of the common purposes as stated below:
- To overawe by criminal force, or by show of criminal force, to the Government or any public servant exercising their lawful power;
- To resist the execution of any law, or of any legal process;
- To commit any offence;
- By using criminal force towards any person, to take possession of property, or to deprive any person of the enjoyment of his right of way, incorporeal rights or his possessions; or
- By using criminal force to compel any person to do what he is not legally bound to do, or to omit to do what he is legally entitled to do.
You may have heard of the rumour that any gathering of more than 2 people after 10pm in Singapore is illegal. This is not true as the gathering must have at least 5 persons, and it is only considered unlawful when the group shares at least one of the common intentions stated above.
Penalties for Unlawful Assembly
If found to be a member of an unlawful assembly, you will be jailed for up to 2 years, and/or fined.
For example, 26 youth residents of the Singapore Boys’ Home were charged with being part of an unlawful assembly in September 2016. They had the common intention to commit the offence of vandalism by damaging bed frames and smashing fluorescent lamps belonging to the home.
Further, on December 2016, Ng Bing Hui was jailed for 10 weeks after he pleaded guilty to being part of an unlawful assembly of up to 100 people. The group had the common intention of intimidating police officers, who are public servants, into not carrying out their duties.
The penalties are more serious if the offender had joined or continued in the unlawful assembly:
- Despite knowing that it has been commanded to disperse. In this case, the offender will be jailed for up to 5 years, and/or fined; or
- While being armed with a deadly weapon. If so, the offender will be jailed up to 5 years, fined or caned (or given any combination of these punishments).
What is Rioting?
Rioting is an aggravated form of unlawful assembly as force or violence must have been used.
According to section 146 of the Penal Code, rioting is committed whenever force or violence is used by an unlawful assembly, or by any member of the unlawful assembly. Every member of the assembly will then be found guilty for rioting.
Penalties for Rioting
If found guilty for rioting, you will be jailed for up to 7 years, and caned.
However, if found guilty of rioting armed with a deadly weapon or anything likely to cause death, you will be jailed for up to 10 years and caned.
On 29 February 2020, 13 men were charged with rioting with deadly weapons which included knives, knuckle dusters and metal rods.
What is affray?
If violence is committed in public, although less than 5 people are involved, you may be liable for committing an affray. According to section 267A of the Penal Code, an affray is committed where 2 or more persons fight in a public place, resulting in the disturbance of public peace.
If found guilty for committing an affray, you will be jailed for up to 1 year, and/or be fined up to $5,000.
Further, if found guilty of assaulting or obstructing, threatening to assault or obstruct a public servant who is attempting to disperse an unlawful assembly or suppress a riot or an affray, you will be jailed for up to 8 years, and/or fined.
Are Unlawful Assembly and Rioting Arrestable Offences?
Unlawful assemblies and rioting are arrestable offences. An arrestable offence is one where the police can arrest a suspect without a warrant.
Once the suspects have been arrested, it is up to the police or the court to decide whether to release them on bail.
How will Offenders be Sentenced for Unlawful Assembly and Rioting?
The basic approach taken by the courts has been that once convicted of a rioting charge, rioters would be liable for the actions of his fellow rioters and be sentenced as a group. The rationale behind this approach is rioting is a collective offence as rioters share the common object of an unlawful assembly and do not commit their acts in isolation.
Generally, the Singapore courts have consistently imposed sentences of 18 to 26 months’ jail, and caning ranging from 2 to 12 strokes for unlawful assembly offences.
Factors that the court will consider during sentencing
In considering the sentence, the judge may consider the following factors which could either increase or reduce the sentence:
- Scale and location of the riot
- Level of violence involved
- Extent of the victim’s injuries (if any)
- Use of any weapons
- Whether the riot was premeditated
- Whether the offender had abused any position of authority in committing the offence
For example, Diki Zulkarnaini participated in a riot with deadly weapons (the rioters he was with carried wooden poles) in the Accident and Emergency Department of a hospital, which was considered a protective place for the sick and wounded. Such factors, among others, were considered aggravating factors which resulted in him receiving a higher sentence of 42 months’ imprisonment and 9 strokes of the cane.
Will Unlawful Assembly and Rioting Result in a Criminal Record?
If you are convicted of unlawful assembly and/or rioting, you may or may not have a criminal record. This depends on whether the Commissioner of Police chooses to exercise his discretion to not register your criminal record.
Generally, the Commissioner of Police may choose to exercise his discretion to not register your criminal record if you:
- Are sentenced to a fine not exceeding $1,000 and not to jail unless such jail term is in default of payment of the fine; and
- Have not been previously registered as a criminal
For the offence of unlawful assembly however, even if your criminal record has been registered, you might still have the opportunity to have your criminal record treated as spent after a certain period of time. This simply means that your record will be wiped clean.
If you have been convicted of rioting, any criminal record registered in respect of the rioting offence cannot be treated as spent.
To qualify for having your record spent, you must first meet the following criteria:
- If you were given a prison sentence, your jail term must have been not more than 3 months;
- If you were given a fine, the fine imposed on you must have been not more than $2,000;
- You must not have any other conviction on your criminal record; and
- You must not have any previous spent record on the register.
Once these criteria have been met, you have to remain crime-free for at least 5 consecutive years, starting from the date of your release from prison, or from the date that your sentence was passed if you were given a fine.
Once you accomplish this, your record will be spent automatically, and you will be able to legally declare that you do not have a criminal record.
If you have been charged with unlawful assembly, rioting or similar offences, you may want to discuss your options with a criminal lawyer, who will be able to better advise you on whether you should claim trial or plead guilty.
While it is possible for you to represent yourself, there are many procedures, documents and legal principles that you must be familiar with should your case go to trial.
Additionally, even prior to the hearing of your case in court, a lawyer can help you apply for bail, and/or submit representations to the prosecution to either reduce your charges or have them dropped altogether.
- Your Right to a Lawyer After Being Arrested in Singapore
- 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
- Making Objections at Trial in the Singapore Courts
- When is a Witness Testimony Unreliable in Singapore?
- Burden of Proof in Criminal and Civil Cases 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
- Death of a Party in a Legal Case in Singapore: What Happens?
- 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 (at Home, 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
- Causing a Public Nuisance in Singapore: What are the Penalties?
- Causing Public Alarm in Singapore: Examples & Penalties
- 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?
- Modification of Cars, Motorcycles, Etc: Is It Legal in Singapore?
- Penalties for Illegal Immigration and Overstaying in Singapore
- Criminal Intimidation: Penalties for Making Threats in Singapore