QUICKER, MORE EFFECTIVE REMEDIES AGAINST HARASSMENT WITH NEW PROTECTION FROM HARASSMENT COURT FROM 1 JUNE 2021
31 May 2021 Posted in Press releases
- The Protection from Harassment Court (“PHC”) will be established on 1 June 2021. Other amendments to the Protection from Harassment Act (“POHA”) will also come into effect on the same day. The changes will enhance the protection available for victims of harassment and make it simpler for them to obtain relief.
Establishment of the Protection from Harassment Court
- The PHC will be a specialised Court dedicated to dealing with harassment matters, whether online or offline. It will have oversight of all criminal and civil matters under POHA and will offer victims a one-stop solution for effective and holistic recourse. (Refer to Annex A for the remedies available under POHA, and Annex B for an overview of the PHC.)
- The establishment of the PHC will bring about several improvements, as follows.
- The PHC will adopt simplified processes for certain types of applications, including applications for Protection Orders (“POs”) and orders relating to falsehoods. Claims that may be made under the simplified proceedings must:
a. involve only one claimant and no more than five respondents;
b. be brought within two years from the date that the cause of action is accrued; and
c. not include a claim for damages exceeding $20,000.
- Under this simplified track, a litigant can file a claim online and at lower cost, instead of having to travel to filing bureaus to file an Originating Summons with a supporting affidavit in-person, as is the case today. Applications are to be filed through the State Courts’ Community Justice and Tribunals System (“CJTS”) (http://www.statecourts.gov.sg/CJTS), an online filing and case management system which is accessible 24/7. The CJTS also offers a pre-filing assessment for claimants to consider the validity of their claims.
- Hearings will also be conducted more quickly, so that victims can obtain timely relief. The PHC will target to conduct hearings for Expedited Protection Orders (“EPOs”) within 48 to 72 hours of the application, or within 24 hours where there is a risk of violence or actual violence. The PHC will also aim to hear PO applications within four weeks of the application. On CJTS, a respondent can also initiate an eNegotiation process to try and reach an amicable settlement with a claimant.
- The PHC may transfer cases commenced in the PHC to other Courts (i.e. District Court, Magistrate’s Court or Family Court), and vice versa. This transfer mechanism recognises how harassment may occur against the backdrop of other ongoing proceedings, such as divorce proceedings. From 1 June 2021, cases may be transferred between the PHC and the District Court or Magistrate’s Court. Transfer of POHA cases between the PHC and the Family Court will be operationalised at a later date.
Enhanced Protection for Harassment Victims
- In addition, the following changes to enhance protection for harassment victims will come into effect on 1 June 2021:
a. Victims of harassment will face fewer hurdles to obtain POs: If a respondent has been convicted of any POHA or hurt-related offence against the victim, the requirement to show that a POHA provision has been contravened (which is necessary before a PO can be granted) will be deemed satisfied. Victims will not have to relive their experience more than necessary, to obtain protection.
b. Investigations and powers of arrest: In egregious cases of hurt or harassment, it may not be sufficient to grant the victim a civil remedy in the form of a PO/EPO. Hence, judges granting EPOs will now be required to consider whether a criminal investigation is warranted and, if warranted, refer cases to the police for investigation. In addition, breaches of POs or EPOs will be arrestable in prescribed scenarios, such as where hurt is caused.
c. Enhanced protection afforded by PO/EPOs: POs and EPOs will be further extended to protect persons related to the victim, as these persons may also be harassed by the same perpetrator. Furthermore, it will be made clear that domestic exclusion orders (i.e. orders restraining the respondent from entering the applicant’s residence or parts of the residence) can be granted as part of a PO. This will ensure better protection for victims who may reside in the same residence as the harasser.
MINISTRY OF LAW
31 May 2021
Annex A - Legal Remedies for Victims of Harassment (283KB)
Annex B - Factsheet on the Protection from Harassment Court (315KB)
Annex C - Write-up on the Commencement of Protection from Harassment Court on 1 June 2021 (111KB)
Last updated on 31 May 2021