Helping young offenders 'take responsibility for their actions'
THE worrying behaviour of some Singapore youth came under scrutiny in Parliament yesterday, with MPs asking about penalties and rehabilitative measures for those who make offensive remarks on race and religion, or who commit serious crimes.
Young people who make seditious remarks may be counselled on the importance of respecting other races and religions, and given the chance to interact with people from different communities through community service and other activities, said Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development Low Yen Ling.
They may also receive different penalties depending on the severity of their offence, she said in response to a question from Nominated MP Kuik Shiao-Yin. These include conditional warnings, probation and being placed in a juvenile rehabilitation centre, reformative training centre or prison.
Ms Low said: "These measures encourage offenders to take responsibility for their actions and equip them with the life skills to embark on constructive lifestyles."
Meanwhile, young people who commit serious crimes like vandalism or hurt to others should be severely punished to send a deterrent message against criminal behaviour, said Second Minister for Home Affairs Masagos Zulkifli.
While rehabilitative options are available for those who are "suitable", the courts have also meted out stricter punishments in the case of more serious offences.
Some are "deterrent sentences to send a strong signal that such criminal behaviour will not be condoned nor taken lightly", he said.
When appropriate, the prosecutor may appeal against the sentence if it does not reflect the seriousness of the crime, he added.
He was responding to Janil Puthucheary (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC), who wanted to know whether existing penalties could sufficiently deter young people from committing serious crimes.
Last month, 19-year-old Daryl Lim Jun Jiang, who along with three friends assaulted foreign workers for fun, was sentenced to 10 days of detention and 150 hours of community service. The Attorney-General's Chambers has filed a notice of appeal for a harsher sentence.
Although Mr Masagos did not raise this incident in Parliament yesterday, he cited two examples of youths receiving stiff sentences for vandalism and causing hurt in recent years.
Last year, three men in their 20s were jailed and caned for vandalising public property, while in 2013, three young men were jailed and caned for rioting and slashing a full-time national serviceman at an Orchard Road shopping centre.
"These sentences give the community the assurance that safety and security are being safeguarded," said Mr Masagos.
A key factor in whittling down youth crime is the high certainty of them being caught and dealt with firmly, he said, adding that prompt and effective enforcement by agencies, coupled with strict laws, is thus necessary.