New guide for sentencing rapists

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Court lays down three sentencing bands based on severity of rape

The Court of Appeal yesterday laid down a comprehensive framework for sentencing rapists, in a move to promote a more consistent and transparent practice in this area.

The three-judge apex court - comprising Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Judges of Appeal Chao Hick Tin and Andrew Phang - set out three sentencing bands depending on the severity of the crime.

The benchmark sentence for Band 1 is 10 to 13 years' jail and six strokes of the cane; Band 2 is 13 to 17 years' jail and 12 strokes of the cane; Band 3 is 17 to 20 years' jail and 18 strokes of the cane.

In doing so, the court dismantled a previous framework - which had classified rapes into four categories - that had largely guided sentencing for rapists in the last 10 years.

Justice Chao said the old framework, which was set out by then Justice V. K. Rajah, has "brought a measure of consistency" in the sentences imposed in rape offences.

But it also suffers from several problems, said Justice Chao, delivering the court's decision.

Among other things, the categories did not cover the whole spectrum of circumstances in which rape may be committed.

"As a result, there has been a clustering of sentencing outcomes and a failure to utilise the full range of sentences provided for in the statute," he said.

Under the new framework, a judge sentencing a rapist should look at "offence-specific" factors to decide which band the offender falls under.

Aggravating factors include group rape, pre-meditation, an abuse of trust, violence and rape of a vulnerable victim.

After determining the band, the judge should then look at the circumstances of each offender to calibrate the sentence.

Justice Chao noted the new framework "does not effect a radical change in the sentencing benchmarks".

"For the most part, it seeks only to rationalise existing judicial practice to promote a more systematic, coherent, consistent and transparent approach towards sentencing in this area."