Parliament passes Harassment (Amendment Bill)
It will establish specialist court and strengthen protection for victims of harassment
The Protection from Harassment (Amendment) Bill was debated and passed in Parliament yesterday.
Senior Minister of State for Law Edwin Tong laid out the Bill and answered questions and clarifications from various Members of Parliament (MP), including Workers' Party Chief, Mr Pritam Singh, Associate Professor Walter Theseira, Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon) and Labour MP Mr Patrick Tay.
Here is what is new and what has been amended.
Establishment of a specialist court
The court, which will sit in the State Courts, is dedicated to dealing with all harassment matters, including both the civil and criminal aspects.
The court will be staffed by judges trained specially to deal with harassment, and will commit to hear applications for Expedited Protection Orders (EPO) more quickly.
Judges will also be required to take a proactive position and refer serious cases of hurt or harassment to the police even if the victims are only looking for protection orders.
Strengthened protection for victims of harassment and related persons
Protection Orders and EPOs will be extended to protect persons related to the victim, as these persons are often at risk of violence from the harasser as well. The EPOs will also remain in effect until the PO hearing is concluded.
The Bill will strengthen the remedies available when a PO or EPO is breached, making the breach arrestable in some circumstances.
Penalties for breaches will also be tightened.
The Bill will also introduce double penalties for those who harass people with mental or physical disabilities or their intimate partners.
Protection enhanced for victims of falsehoods and undesirable online behaviour
The act of doxxing will be criminalised.
Doxxing involves the publication of personal information in order to harass or harm the victim.
Moreover, the scope of orders which can be made to target online falsehoods will also be expanded.
The courts will be empowered to make a range of orders to better and more quickly protect victims of falsehoods, including tasking a third party to stop publishing, disable access to, or issue corrections to rectify false statements about entities or individuals.
Where an order has been made to stop the publication of false statements, all substantially similar false statements will also be covered by the order.
Who will the Bill affect?
All private individuals and companies. Government is exempt from the Act, and can neither call upon the Act, nor be judged under it.
How will it be applied?
The courts will apply the new laws and will hold the power to decide, on a case by case basis, whether a given post is considered doxxing or false.
Mr Tong said that while some might brush off the loss of privacy or safety both online and offline as a worthwhile trade-off for the convenience and other advantages the Internet provides, the impact of online bullying, doxxing and harassment can leave long lasting and damaging effects that can affect a person for life, and it has to be dealt with.
Get The New Paper on your phone with the free TNP app. Download from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store now