Outrage of Modesty: Practical Considerations
What is outrage of modesty?
Section 354 of the Penal Code criminalises the use of criminal force on another person with the intention or knowledge that it will thereby outrage the modesty of that person.
Outrage of modesty is also commonly known as molestation. The terms ‘outrage’ and ‘modesty’ are left undefined to accommodate for the ever-changing societal values and differing individual beliefs, i.e. this allows the court to take more factors into account such as the race or religion of the victim and the manner in which the force is applied.
Recent statistics released by the Singapore Police Force revealed an increase in outrage of modesty cases. The number of outrage of modesty cases increased by 5 percent in the first half of 2019 as compared to the first half of 2018 – from 797 cases to 837 cases. Common cases include touching a stranger’s thigh on a public transport and slapping a colleague’s buttocks without his/her consent.
Implications for foreigners
There are several implications when a foreigner is involved with such an offence. The police and the prosecution can take as long as 3 months in some cases before determining whether or not to proceed with the charge(s) against you. During this period, they are not required to provide you with any updates or information on the case. You may wish to engage a lawyer at this point, our criminal lawyers can assist you in communicating directly with the police and the prosecution to enquire about the status of your case.
In addition, your employer may suspend or dismiss you from your job – this means that you will be cut off from your source of income and may potentially lose your accommodation. Whilst under investigation, the police may withhold your passport to prevent you from leaving the country. The worst-case scenario is where you are left stranded in Singapore without proper accommodation. It is important to have the right support in this difficult period. Our criminal lawyers at Gloria James-Civetta & Co can assist you by taking you through the whole process and making a representation on your behalf to request the prosecution and/or police to reduce or drop the charge(s).
Anyone found guilty of this offence is punishable for up to 2 years’ imprisonment, or with fine, or with caning, or with any combination of the aforesaid. The punishment is more severe if the offence is committed against a person under 14 years old or if violence was used in the commission of the offence.
What to expect
Arrest: The police may arrest you without warrant for an outrage of modesty offence. You may be required to surrender your personal belongings and can be detained up to 48 hours. The detention may be extended if the investigations necessitate a longer remand.
Read More: Types of Arrest
Legal Representation: You may request to contact your family members or lawyers within a reasonable time. However, this does not mean that you have the right to contact your lawyer immediately after arrest, there are rare cases where two weeks was regarded as a reasonable period for the police to refuse the accused’s access to his/her lawyer.
Read More: The Importance of a Letter of Representation
Bail: You may be released under bail after the initial investigation. If you are granted bail, it is possible for the court to order that your passport be held by the police to ensure that you do not leave the jurisdiction. If you are a foreigner who cannot leave the country because your passport is with the police, you may wish to speak to our lawyers or your embassy for advice on ways to resolve this as quickly as possible.
Read More: Stages of Criminal Process in Singapore
What our criminal lawyers at Gloria James-Civetta & Co can do
It can be stressful and embarrassing to be charged with outrage of modesty. Our lawyers can ease the discomfort and anxiety by advising and bringing you through the next steps. We can also write a letter of representation to the prosecution and/or police on your behalf to request that they reduce or drop the charge(s) or allow for a composition of the charge(s).