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Community Based Sentencing

Have you ever heard of a person who was convicted for breaking the law in Singapore but rather than serving time in jail or paying a fine, his Sentence is to perform community service?

Our courts today have more sophisticated and targeted sentences at their disposal, allowing for more effective rehabilitation of offenders. These are community-based sentencing, which include community service orders and community work orders. These are normally paired with a probation order.

Type of Probation
Hours of Community Service/Work
6 Months
From 40
1 Year
2-3 Years
Up to 240

You may have seen litterbugs sentenced to community work orders and made to sweep streets in bright vests. Community-based sentencing is essentially an extension of that. This was probably developed when some enlightened legislator thought to himself, “If such sentencing were appropriate in that instance of littering, surely it would be appropriate in other instances as well.” Whatever the case, our legal system is definitely better for it – more flexible and rehabilitative.

However, community-based sentencing is inapplicable to grave crimes like armed robbery etc. Not even the top lawyers from the top criminal firms in Singapore can get you a community-based sentence for say, something like murder (and rightly so!). It is only applicable to minor offences for which there is no mandatory imprisonment term provided and the maximum term of the offence does not exceed three years.

Such sentencing prevents the offender from being alienated from his family, employment and society to assist his rehabilitation. This is particularly relevant for young offenders, who may conversely be directed to a life of crime if imprisoned and influenced by more hardened inmates.

There are also mandatory treatment orders, which involve the offender having to seek treatment for his mental disorder. This is only applicable if it can be proven that his condition is one of the contributing factors for his committing the offence. The most common example where the court rejects the plea for such a sentence is when an accused person develops depression through the course of his trial, and attempts to use his mental condition to be excused from prison. His condition came after his offence, and cannot be said to have caused the offence.

On the other hand, such sentencing is particularly appropriate for say, a kleptomaniac. This refers to a person who steals compulsively – such a person experiences great tension at the temptation of stealing something, regardless of its value. Simply putting such an offender in jail would merely temporarily stop the person from reoffending. Such cases exhibit high rates of recidivism, as the compulsion to steal will still be there upon release. Furthermore, such a person is also less culpable than an ordinary offender who steals due to greed, making a deliberate choice to disregard another person’s property rights. Instead, a kleptomaniac acts on impulse and thus, it would be fairer to impose on him a lighter sentence that is community-based rather than outright imprisonment.

It is notable that community-based sentencing recognizes that the act of prosecution in itself already serves as deterrence against committing the offence. The stress, stigma and embarrassment are already a significant ordeal to bear. As such, particularly for minor offences, the offender would already have been punished enough for his offence, and there is no need for imprisonment to follow. The offender is unlikely to repeat the offence so further specific deterrence is unnecessary and a community-based sentence would suffice.

Thus, in the unfortunate event (touch wood!) that you find yourself on the wrong side of the law for a minor offence, make sure your Singapore criminal lawyer gives you the right legal advice and seek a community-based sentence where appropriate.

This post first appeared on Criminal Law In Singapore, please read the originial post: here

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Community Based Sentencing


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