MHA to review relevance of educational background amongst other factors in sentencing: Shanmugam

'Courts are not the issue', he said, adding that it should be the legal policy framework that should be reviewed.

Syahindah Ishak | Nigel Chua | July 21, 2020, 02:16 PM

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) will be reviewing the relevance of educational background, amongst other factors, in sentencing for certain criminal cases, home affairs and law minister K Shanmugam said on July 21.

Additional facts of the case have also come to light, including that Yin's detention order would involve him spending 12 days in prison.

This comes amid public uproar over the recent sentencing of Yin Zi Qin, a 23-year-old dental student at the National University of Singapore (NUS), who had tried to strangle his ex-girlfriend after she rejected his request to get back together.

Meanwhile, Shanmugam said that it was not appropriate to blame the court and judges involved in the case, which he noted that some had done.

"Courts are not the issue", he said, adding that it should be the legal policy framework that should be reviewed.

"We need to deal with this as a matter of policy", Shanmugam said, acknowledging "strong feelings on punishment" expressed by members of the public.

Review to be conducted

Speaking to the media over Zoom on July 21, Shanmugam said that MHA would conduct a review covering the following three areas:

  1. The penalties to be applied for similar cases in future
  2. The relevance of factors such as educational background in sentencing
  3. The relativity in punishment between different offences

"The penalty framework in the end must make sense", he said, adding that he would make a statement in Parliament when the review was finalised.

Shanmugam also pointed out that previous reviews of the law had resulted in changes to the law such as the creation of a new offence of voyeurism, providing for more specific, enhanced penalties.

Additional facts of the case revealed

Additional facts of the case, which revealed that Yin did not emerge from the incident unharmed, have come to light.

According to court documents, the victim’s stepfather punched and slapped Yin multiple times on his face, and used a cigarette butt to burn his face, near his right eye in the course of the confrontation.

Additionally, a large number of people, including 49 out of his 54 dentistry batchmates, gave testimonies of his character, leading the judge to conclude that his actions on the day of the offence was out of character.

Yin's detention order would involve him spending 12 days in prison.

Background to the case

Yin had entered the compound of his ex-girlfriend's home on May 9, 2019, using an access card that she passed to him previously. He informed her that he was at her house, and that he wanted to speak to her.

They met at the basement and entered the victim's bedroom by climbing into her window from an adjacent showroom unit.

He then tried to strangle her after she rejected his request for them to get back together.

When she struggled, he pressed his thumb against her left eye to the point that it bled.

Yin pleaded guilty to one charge of voluntarily causing hurt. Another charge of criminal trespass was taken into consideration due to him having unlawfully remained in the house, even though he was deemed to have initially entered lawfully.

Sentenced to 12 days of detention

Yin was sentenced to 12 days of detention, will be subject to a day reporting order for five months with counselling, and must complete 80 hours of community service over a year.

During sentencing, district judge Marvin Bay considered Yin's age and his rehabilitative prospects.

Bay did not find that Yin has a high risk of re-offending even though he took into account the psychological harm that he had caused to the victim and the anxiety that the family had to go through because of Yin, CNA reported.

The maximum penalty for voluntarily causing hurt is jail for up to two years, a fine of S$5,000, or both.

NUS disciplinary proceedings ongoing

Yin has also been suspended by NUS and banned from campus, pending disciplinary proceedings which are ongoing.

In a statement posted on Facebook, the university noted that it did not have the "jurisdiction to investigate matters beyond the university".

"As such, NUS had to wait for the completion of the court proceedings to gather the facts of the case. We will now move to close this case as quickly as we can."

Public response to the incident

PAP Women's Wing issues statement

The Women's Wing of the People's Action Party has also issued a statement on the matter, saying that they were "dismayed that the sentence in this case appears disproportionate to the offence".

Petition calling for harsher punishment

An online petition has since been started, calling for Yin to be dealt a harsher punishment, and for amendments to the law under which Yin was sentenced.

As of July 21, it has garnered over 13,000 signatures.

Previous comments on a case criticised as too lenient

This is not the first time Shanmugam has commented publicly on a verdict which was criticised as being too lenient.

He previously expressed surprise at the initial verdict in the case of Terence Siow, who was deemed to be suitable for probation rather than imprisonment, partly because his academic results showed he had the “potential to excel in life”.

Siow's probation sentence was subsequently overturned, and he was jailed for two weeks.

Top image screenshot via Zoom