Written Answer by Minister for Law, Mr K Shanmugam, to Parliamentary Question on Training on Sexual Offences for Judicial Officials
05 Jan 2021 Posted in Parliamentary speeches and responses
Ms Raeesah Khan (Member of Parliament for Seng Kang)
To ask the Minister for Law (a) whether judicial officers receive training on sexual offences including learning about rape myths and stereotypes and how to tackle biases about gender and other social factors; and (b) if not, whether there are plans to introduce such training via the Singapore Judicial College.
- There are relevant training programmes organised for our judges. For instance, the Singapore Judicial College (SJC) conducted a module titled “Understanding the Psychology of Sexual Assault Victims” in 2018 and 2020 for judges. The module included relevant social science research and empirical findings from trauma and victim psychology, and covered topics including rape myths and stereotypes of sexual assault, the dynamics of sexual offending, as well as offender and victim psychology.
- In addition to SJC programmes, the Courts also conduct additional court-specific training programmes, from time to time. For instance, in 2017, experts from the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) conducted two talks for Supreme Court Judges titled “The psychology of victims and inconsistent testimonies” and “Neuroscience of traumatic memories”. The talks covered issues such as under-reporting, late-reporting and inconsistent statements by victims of sexual offences, rape trauma syndrome and memory-trauma dynamics. In February 2021, an expert from the IMH will give a talk to the State Courts’ judicial officers on the behavioural and psychological impact of sexual offences, and on common misconceptions about victim behaviour and reactions to sexual offences.
- When cases are heard, our courts have considered expert evidence on the psychology and behaviour of sexual assault victims. For instance, in a 2019 case, the Court of Appeal referred to and accepted the expert evidence of the chief psychologist from the Ministry of Social and Family Development that (a) only a small proportion of victims of sexual offences report the offences in a timely manner, and (b) that a victim of sexual assault cannot always be expected to provide a completely similar and full account every time the victim discloses the offence to another person. The Courts have recognised that each case should be decided on its own facts.
- To avoid irrelevant and distressing lines of questioning from Defence counsel in Court, which may further traumatise victims of sexual assault, the Evidence Act was amended in 2018 and rules were put in place to prevent the Defence from asking alleged victims of sexual offences about their physical appearance or sexual behaviour (which is unrelated to the charge), without the Court’s permission. Judges may intervene to stop inappropriate arguments or lines of questioning, or reprimand Defence counsel.
Last updated on 05 Jan 2021