MHA to review penalty framework for cases such as one involving dentistry student, says Shanmugam

Minister for Law K Shanmugam. (PHOTO: Parliament screencap)
Minister for Law K Shanmugam. (PHOTO: Parliament screencap)

SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) will be reviewing several areas of the penalty framework for certain criminal cases including the relevance of an offender’s background in sentencing, said Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on Tuesday (21 July).

The announcement comes after a public outcry over the sentencing of a dental student from the National University of Singapore (NUS) who choked and thumbed the eye of an ex-girlfriend when she wanted to break up with him. Yin Zi Qin was sentenced by a court last Friday to a short detention order of 12 days, community service of 80 hours and a day reporting order for five months.

In a Facebook post, Shanmugam said the ruling of the court should be respected, adding that what is needed is a review of the legal framework. When the review is completed, Shanmugam said he will present it in Parliament.

The MHA will conduct a review in three areas: the penalties applicable to such cases, the background of an offender and other factors and the extent of their relevance in sentencing, and the relative punishments for different offences.

Case background

Yin had pleaded guilty to one count of voluntarily causing hurt to the 21-year-old victim with one count of unlawfully remaining in her house to annoy her taken into consideration for sentencing. A short detention order means that Yin will not have a criminal record upon his release.

Then in his second year of the dental course, Yin had accessed the victim’s house with a card and later climbed through a window to her bedroom.

Yin pleaded with the victim not to end the relationship. When the victim refused, Yin banged his head against the wall and remained silent for a while.

As they resumed talking, Yin began choking the woman’s neck. She screamed and struggled, causing Yin to release her. Yin then pressed his thumb against her left eye, causing it to bleed.

Following the sentencing, the NUS said on Monday that Yin has been barred from campus. He is also currently suspended from his course, pending ongoing disciplinary proceedings.

During a confrontation, the victim’s stepfather had punched and slapped Yin on his face and burned it with a cigarette butt, a Straits Times report said. The stepfather was issued a warning by the police, it added.

Public outcry

The case has also triggered heated public debate, particularly over the sentence imposed against Yin.

Shanmugam said many have written to him to express disappointment over the case. “I can understand their unhappiness.” Yin could have faced up to two years’ jail for his offence, he added.

Referring to the case, the People’s Action Party (PAP) Women’s Wing and PAP Women Members of Parliament on Tuesday issued a statement to strongly denounce violence against women.

The statement said, “Like many members of the public, we are dismayed that the sentence in this case appears disproportionate to the offence. We respect our institutions and judicial system...We have shared our concerns about the sentencing in this case with the Minister of Home Affairs who has committed to look further into the matter.”

AWARE Singapore has also commented on the case, saying the sentence has a “detrimental impact” on how the public perceives violence against women.

The women advocacy group said, “We suggest a review of each stage of the law enforcement process (the police, the AGC and the Courts), to put into place measures that ensure the appropriateness and fairness of outcomes.”

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