The formal legal term for an act of molestation is Outrage of Modesty. These incidents can happen anywhere and anytime, and have become more popular in Singapore, especially in nightlife hotspots and on public transport.

The Singapore Police Force have released data for the period January to June 2018, showing a 37% increase in the number of cases involving outrage of modesty at nightspots. In the same period, cases of outrage of modesty on public transport rose by 43.8%.

What constitutes the offence of ‘Outrage of Modesty’?

According to section 354 of the Penal Code, the offence is defined as ‘assault or use of criminal force on a person with intent to outrage modesty’. It is necessary that the offence includes the ‘use of criminal force’ – so merely staring at someone inappropriately will not be a crime of outrage of modesty.

The term ‘modesty’ is not specifically defined by the Penal Code, most likely because societal opinions on what is considered outrageous to one’s modesty can change over time. Each case is judged on its own facts, and other factors such as age, race and religion of the victim may also be considered.

Although both men and women can commit the offence, it is males who are the most common offenders.

Upskirt photographs: taking photographs up the skirt of a woman is classed as being an outrage to modesty, even though no criminal force or physical assault may be involved. Gestures such as this (and also any words used) which ‘insult the modesty’ of a someone is considered an outrage of modesty, under section 509 of the Penal Code.

Case examples

Some examples of outrage of modesty cases in Singapore include the following:

Woman molested by man on way to family lunch

Offence details: Male dropped off family, parked car and molested 34-year-old female

Sentence: $4,000 fine

Woman molested while sleeping on train

Offence details: Male repeatedly touched thigh of sleeping woman sitting next to him on train

Sentence: 1 week jail sentence following guilty plea

Male molests female bus passenger

Offence details: Male offender molests 23-year-old on bus by rubbing his thigh against her

Sentence: Jailed for 3 weeks

Male took upskirt photos of women

Offence details: Male offender – a pastor – took 12 videos up womens’ skirts

Sentence: Jailed for 8 weeks

Maid and expectant mother molested in lift

Offence details: A man molested a maid and a pregnant woman in the same lift, within an hour

Sentence: Jailed for 10 months

Male molests female maid and exposes himself to her

Offence details: Husband exposes himself twice to the family maid and molests her

Sentence: Jailed for 14 months and 2 weeks

Man molests young boy and then a woman at restaurant

Offence details: Male molests 6-year-old boy at restaurant, and then a 60-year-old woman on bus

Sentence: Jailed for 18 months

Repeat offender molests women 2 months after release

Offence details: Male offender with history of entering women’s toilets to molest victims

Sentence: Preventive detention for 10 years plus 3 strokes of cane

Consent, Intention and Knowledge

If consent is given, then there can be no outrage of modesty – for example, a doctor intimately examining a patient, or intimate acts between couples.

If the perpetrator of an act has the intention or knowledge that their acts are probably considered an outrage of modesty, then that offence will have been committed.

Enhanced Penalties

Harsher penalties are imposed in certain outrage of modesty cases, such as:

  • Outraging the modesty of domestic maids (Penal Code section 73)
  • Outraging the modesty of victims who are younger than 14 years old (Penal Code section 354(2)
  • Outrage of modesty offences which happen in lifts; involve physical threats; deliberately cause hurt; use wrongful restraint; or result in death (Penal Code section 354A)

Mere Attempts / Failed Attempts

Under Penal Code section 511, merely attempting to outrage someone’s modesty is still considered an outrage of modesty offence, as are failed attempts.

It is highly recommended that you consult a criminal defence lawyer if you are accused of committing the offence of outrage of modesty.

Sentencing factors under section 354 of the penal Code

All of the following factors – and some others not listed here – may be taken into account by the courts when considering sentencing for the offence of outrage of modesty:

  • In what manner did the offender molest the victim?
  • How long did the offence last for?
  • Which part of the victim’s body was touched by the offender?
  • Was the offence premeditated, or committed spontaneously?
  • Was/is the offender suffering from an intellectual disability or a mental disorder?
  • What is the relationship between victim and offender?
  • Were the circumstances of the offence inherently reprehensible?
  • Is the offender co-operative?

Seek legal advice, even if you have admitted a crime

You should always consider obtaining the advice of a criminal lawyer if you have admitted to the crime of outrage of modesty.

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The formal legal term for an act of molestation is Outrage of Modesty. These incidents can happen anywhere and anytime, and have become more popular in Singapore, especially in nightlife hotspots and on public transport. The Singapore Police Force have released data for the period January to June 2018, showing a 37% increase in the number of cases involving outrage of modesty at nightspots. In the same period, cases of...

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