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New Singapore law keeps 'dangerous offenders' in jail after term ends

Robert Besser
8 Feb 2024

SINGAPORE: This week, Singapore passed a law to hold "dangerous offenders" indefinitely despite their completed jail sentences.

Under the new legislation, those aged 21 and over who were convicted of serious crimes, such as homicide, rape, and sex with minors, and are deemed to be at risk of reoffending might not be automatically released.

In a speech in parliament, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said, "An offender who continues to pose a real danger to others should not be released. We have to deal with these kinds of menace and protect our society."

Instead of being automatically released after completing their prison terms, offenders covered by the law would need the home affairs minister to decide whether they are no longer a threat to the public.

A review board would advise the minister, which would be made up of experts, such as retired judges, lawyers, psychiatrists, and psychologists, and the offender and his lawyers can make representations to the board.

Those found unfit for release will have their case reviewed annually. Singapore estimates this law will affect fewer than 30 offenders annually.

Despite the opposition Workers' Party urging caution, the law passed with broad support.

"It was hard to accurately predict future violence, and there was a risk of over-detaining someone based on a wrong prediction of dangerousness," said lawmaker Sylvia Lim from the Workers' Party.

"Judges can already order sentences to run consecutively, which can detain offenders for much of their lives in jail, a preferable option to leaving it to the executive to determine when an offender should be released," she added.

Human Rights Watch said it opposed continued detention laws as they violate due process rights.

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