Stricter laws, tougher penalties to curb vice trend in heartlands

A woman caught during a vice raid conducted by the Singapore Police Force on vice activities in the heartland. Photo: Hannah Teoh/Yahoo News Singapore
A woman caught during a vice raid conducted by the Singapore Police Force on vice activities in the heartland. (FILE PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — Stricter laws and tougher penalties will take effect on Friday (7 August) in order to stem an increasing trend of vice in the Singapore heartlands.

In a media release on Thursday, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said that amendments to the Women’s Charter – which was passed in Parliament on 4 November last year – will come into force on Friday. This will strengthen the laws against online vice and enhance the police’s levers against vice syndicates.

To curb these syndicates from setting up brothels in residences, home owners will now be criminally liable if they rent out or sub-let any premises being used as a brothel.

They must prove that they had no knowledge of, and could not with reason diligence have ascertained that the place was to be used as a brothel, during the signing of their lease agreements.

“We would like to remind Housing and Development Board (HDB) flat owners that they are responsible for conducting regular checks to ensure that their tenants do not misuse the flat, further rent out any part of the flat, or create nuisances to their neighbours,” MHA said in the media release.

The ministry added that it is partnering the Council for Estate Agencies, as well as property agencies and agents, to assist and advise property owners and tenants on conducting due diligence checks.

Maximum jail terms, fines are raised

The amended Women’s Charter Act also introduces extra-territorial jurisdiction, enabling the police to take more decisive action against anyone using remote communication services – such as websites or chat groups – to offer sexual services in Singapore, even if such services are hosted overseas.

It has also broadened the definition of “brothel” to include any place that has been advertised or represented as being used for the purpose of prostitution, and is likely to be used for the purpose of prostitution.

Penalties have also been raised for offenders under this amended Act.

Maximum jail terms have been raised from three years to five years for a first conviction, and for more severe offences, from five years to seven years. The maximum imprisonment term for repeat offenders have been increased accordingly, to seven years, and for more severe offences, to 10 years.

Maximum fines have also been raised to $100,000 for a first conviction, and $150,000 for repeat offenders. The current maximum fines range from $2,000 to $10,000 for a first conviction, and $10,000 to $15,000 for repeat offenders.

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