Is it an offence to not report crime?

In an article by TODAY, lawyers and experts alike shared their insights on the legal obligations of reporting crime. Discourse on this matter comes after three recent cases in court where individuals had been charged for their failure to report violent abuse they had been witness to. So are we legally obligated to report crime, and if so, what punishment could we be liable to face?

When does the legal duty to report crime arise?

There is no law that requires for individuals to report any crime they are aware of or witness to. However, certain provisions in Singapore’s statutes do mandate the reporting of specific crimes of a more egregious nature. The issue is identifying which crimes.

“It is not in every situation where a person knows or believes an offence to have been committed that they are bound to make a police report. Otherwise the police would be overwhelmed by many trivial reports.”

Chooi Jing Yen, speaking to TODAY

As our partner Chooi Jing Yen explains, one might not reasonably expect a layman to know offhand every criminal offence that comes with an obligation to report. However, it is understandable that the legal obligation of reporting would extend generally to offences that are more serious in nature.

The relevant provisions in the law

Section 424 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) provides a list of offences which attract a reporting obligation, which run the gamut from murder to crimes of counterfeiting currency.

In addition, Section 202 of the Penal Code (1871) creates an offence of intentional omission of information for offences which individuals are ‘legally bound to give’. This provision imposes a legal duty on individuals to report certain offences, the failure of which could attract an imprisonment term of up to 6 months.

Section 202 of the Penal Code can also be understood in conjunction with Section 201 of the Penal Code, both of which broadly govern the duty to provide authorities with information that is true. Section 201 of the Penal Code makes it an offence for an individual to cause the disappearance of evidence of an offence, or give false information concerning an offence in order to screen the offender from legal punishment. This can be seen as a criminalisation of the more active role of covering up of crimes by the disposal of relevant evidence and attracts a heftier maximum imprisonment sentence of 10 years.

How would one be prosecuted for the failure to report a crime?

A specific example would be in the context of crimes involving abuse of children and family members, While there are no specific laws that impose legal obligation on family members to report abuse committed against minors, certain crimes of abuse under Chapter 16 of the Penal Code still fall within the purview of Section 424.

More specifically, Section 6 of the Children and Young Persons Act sets makes it an offence for a person who has custody, charge or care of a child or young person, to knowingly permit the child to be ill-treated by another person. In a broad interpretation of this provision, this could entail failure to intervene by reporting the abuse to the relevant authorities.

This legal obligation could also possibly extend beyond immediate family members to even professionals in working capacity with children including doctors, psychologists, and social workers – as noted by Mr Mohammed Shakirin Rashid, managing director of Adel Law. On the failure to report such abuse, Mr Shakirin further adds that sentences “may differ depending on the specific circumstances of the case”.

The test of ‘reasonable excuse’, as outlined in Section 424 of the CPC, would turn on a multitude of factors, amongst others: (1) the would-be informer’s state of mind; (2) the degree of knowledge; and (3) whether any reasonable steps or lines of inquiry had been undertaken to address their suspicion

And if convicted, sentencing would depend on factors such as the severity of the predicate offence and how long the crime was concealed for. 

The full article by TODAY can be accessed in the link below.

For legal advice on criminal matters, get in touch.

For more information on our expertise in criminal litigation, click here.

Shenice Long

Recent Posts

TU Law Run 2024

The Thammasat University (TU) Law Run 2024 was held in Bangkok, Thailand on Sunday, 10…

1 month ago

‘Emotionally devastating’: Lawyers on the mental toll of defending those facing the death penalty

In Singapore, the death penalty can be imposed for offences including murder, drug trafficking, use…

2 months ago

Just Jalan 2024: Justice for All

On Sunday morning, Eugene Thuraisingam LLP participated in full attendance in Pro Bono SG’s flagship…

3 months ago

Eugene Thuraisingam LLP Firm Announcement

Eugene Thuraisingam LLP is pleased to announce Suang Wijaya’s appointment as the firm’s Managing Partner…

3 months ago

Eugene Thuraisingam LLP ranked on The Legal 500 2024 list for white collar crime

For the second year running, Eugene Thuraisingam LLP has been ranked on The Legal 500…

3 months ago

Lazada employees question non-compete clause, clawback of shares after layoffs

In January 2024, Lazada conducted a retrenchment exercise in which it laid off a large…

3 months ago