The majority of Singapore citizens and residents rarely need to speak to a policeman, but what happens if your child breaks the law? The team at Gloria James-Civetta & Co answered some pertinent questions.
Are the offences of littering and jaywalking commonly policed? If yes, what is the punishment?
Littering is commonly policed. In 2012, 7,800 litterbugs were caught. Depending on the item discarded, first-time offenders are liable for fines up to $1,000 or a community work order of up to 12 hours, or both. Offenders are required to clean public places while wearing a bright orange jersey that identifies them as litterbugs.
Jaywalking is defined as crossing the road within 50m of a crossing zone. In 2011, 8,650 people were caught jaywalking. Offenders can be fined $20 on the spot. They can also be charged and fined up to $1,000, or jailed for up to three months.
Bullying and cyber-bullying is on the rise. What is the view of the law in relation to children, and is it taken seriously in Singapore?
Bullying at school is usually referred to the school principal to take appropriate action. But should it get out of hand, and serious injuries be caused to the victim, the police would step in and the case would be dealt with in the Subordinate or Juvenile Courts.
Cases in which children are involved are very rare. This is because the perpetrators may be too young to understand what it means to respect and treat another person fairly, or even behave rationally.
Parents are advised to always bring the matter up with the school before approaching the court. The school is in a better position to mediate, settle the matter amicably and counsel those involved, which is better for all parties and does not incur a costly legal fee.
Some teenagers are tempted by risky behaviour such as indulging in drugs, or in under-age drinking or clubbing. What happens in these kinds of cases?
The consumption or purchase of alcohol by anyone under 18 years is not permitted. Those found creating pandemonium in public places while under the influence of alcohol are subjected to imprisonment and hefty fines.
For underage smoking, the child can be taken to court and fined between $100 and $300. Counselling is also provided.
Anyone found guilty of underage clubbing is counselled either by the school, or by counsellors from the child guidance clinic at the Ministry of Health.
In the case of juvenile drug abuse, the consequences are as severe as for adult offenders. The Central Narcotics Bureau first assesses the facts and circumstances of each juvenile case before deciding whether to place the offender under supervision, or to charge them in the Juvenile Court.
What advice do lawyers have for parents who are involved in any type of discussion with the police on behalf of their child?
Probation officers usually ask to speak to the parents as well as the child, to find out more about the child’s family circumstances and to advise parents on how they can assist in their child’s reformation. Parents are advised to be honest with the police.