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     FrontPage Edition: Tue 22 January 2008

 No review for classification of voluntarily causing hurt offence


Oral Answer to Parliamentary Question on whether MHA will review or refine the classification of voluntarily causing hurt as a non-seizable crime, especially in cases where the victim has suffered injuries requiring medical treatment

Ms Sylvia Lim:
To ask the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs whether his Ministry will review or refine the classification of voluntarily causing hurt as a non-seizable crime, especially in cases where the victim has suffered injuries requiring medical treatment.
Senior Minister of State, Assoc Prof Ho Peng Kee:
It is not necessary to review the classification of the offence of voluntarily causing hurt (VCH) as a non-seizable offence at this time.
Last year, 8288 cases of alleged voluntarily causing hurt were reported to Police. Making the offence a seizable one will tie down Police’s resources considerably and hamper its delivery of service in more critical areas. But more than just the numbers, these are cases where the facts may not be easily established.
However, it does not mean that an aggrieved party has no recourse. He has. Let me explain. The offence of VCH covers a wide range of behaviour, involving differing severity of hurt and encompassing entirely different factual matrices: some involve disputes between neighbours, family members and even friends; others involve domestic workers or public transport employees.
Currently, Police takes a calibrated approach which gives it the latitude to deal with each case on its particular circumstances to derive a positive outcome.
Even though a non-seizable offence is one where Police may not ordinarily arrest without warrant, this does not, however, mean that Police does not take any action in relation to such cases. This is because when a VCH case is reported, Police will respond to the scene to gather preliminary evidence. Based on this, they will make an assessment as to the proper course of action to take.
Cases where the hurt is not serious are best resolved without extensive police involvement. For example, in the common scenario involving a dispute between neighbours or friends in the heat of the moment, Police will usually try to persuade the parties to reach an amicable resolution without escalating the matter.
When the dispute is not amicably settled and the aggrieved party wishes to pursue the case, Police will advise him to make a Magistrate’s complaint in the Subordinate Courts as provided for under the law, furnishing him with the requisite form to do so.
There have been instances where, once the heat of the moment has passed, the aggrieved party calms down and decides not to pursue the matter further.
If a complaint is lodged, the Magistrate may decide to send the disputing parties for mediation, for example, under the auspices of the Community Mediation Centre. It is appropriate that other stakeholders such as Justices of the Peace and community mediators are involved in these relation disputes. The Magistrate may also direct Police to further investigate the case, which was done for about 10% of the reported VCH cases last year.
Over the past 3 years, for about 10% of the reported cases, as there was clear harm to the public interest and safety, particularly in a situation where the perpetrator takes advantage of someone weak or vulnerable or performing a public service, Police initiated action on behalf of the victim and applied for an order from the Public Prosecutor to investigate the matter.
In some cases, the victim may suffer injuries which though falling short of being grievous as defined by the law, may still require hospitalisation for medical treatment. In such instances, Police will consider initiating action.

Source: News 22 Jan 2008

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