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Civil and Criminal Remedies in Harassment Cases

The Protection from Harassment Act (‘POHA’), which was enacted in 2014, provides a range of criminal and civil remedies for victims of harassment or harassing behaviour. Before commencing a claim under the POHA, the victim/complainant must decide on the type of remedies that he/she is seeking against the alleged harasser.

The various criminal and civil remedies that are available to victims of harassment – under the POHA as well as under the law in general – are outlined in further detail below:

Civil Remedies

Q: What is a Protection Order?

POs are court orders made under section 12 of the POHA against the harasser to stop harassing/stalking the victim and/or remove any publication that is the cause of harassment.

Under section 13 of the POHA, the court may also grant and Expedited Protection Order (EPO) if urgent intervention is required against the harasser. Section 13 sets out various conditions that need to be met before the judge can grant an EPO.

Note: The POHA also provides for other orders that can be made by the court, for example, orders relating to the publication of false statements that harm the victim’s reputation, but these are not covered in this write-up.

Q: Can I claim monetary compensation/damages if I am a victim of harassment?

You can commence civil proceedings in court to apply for an order that the harasser financially compensates the victim of the harassment.

Please visit the State Courts website at this link for more information on the various civil remedies available for victims of harassment.

Criminal Remedies

Q: What is the difference between filing a police report and filing a Magistrate’s Complaint?

For incidents that do not require immediate police action, the complainant may wish to lodge a police report either at a police centre/post or through the Singapore Police Force’s E-services portal.

A Magistrate’s Complaint, on the other hand, is an application brought by a private individual to commence a private criminal prosecution and seek redress for a wrong committed against him by another private individual. Magistrate’s Complaints need to be filed at the Central Registry located in the State Courts.

Q: What happens after I have filed a police report?

The relevant law enforcement agency will commence investigations into the police report if there is reason to suspect that an offence may have been committed.

If there is sufficient evidence to prove that an offence has been committed, the alleged harasser can either be given a warning or charged in court.

If the investigations reveal that there is no evidence or insufficient evidence to show that an offence of harassment has been committed, no further legal action will be taken against the alleged harasser.

Please visit the Attorney-General’s Chambers’ website at this link for more information.

Q: What happens after I have filed a Magistrate’s Complaint?

When a Magistrate’s Complaint has been filed, the Complainant will be brought before a Magistrate to testify to the accuracy of the complaint being made. This will allow the Magistrate to make an informed decision as to whether the complaint is a meritorious one.

The Magistrate may make any of the following orders:

  • Issue a Notice to both the Complainant and Respondent (i.e. the person against whom the complaint has been filed) for Criminal Mediation;
  • If the Respondent’s address or particulars are not available, the Magistrate may direct the police to ascertain the Respondent’s particulars and issue a Notice for Criminal Mediation thereafter;
  • Issue a Summons against the Respondent provided that the charge(s) are available;
  • Direct the police to conduct an investigation into the complaint; or
  • Dismiss the complaint.

Please visit the State Courts website at this link for more information on filing a Magistrate’s Complaint.

Q: What is Criminal Mediation?

When a Magistrate’s Complaint has been filed, one of the orders that the Magistrate can make is to direct the parties to attend criminal mediation.

The criminal mediation may take place in either:

  • The Community Mediation Centre (CMC); or
  • The State Courts Centre for Dispute Resolution (SCCDR).

If the mediation is successful, the parties will record a settlement agreement and the matter will be closed. However, if the mediation is unsuccessful, the case may either be scheduled for another round of mediation or referred back to the Community Justice & Tribunals Division (CJTD) for further management.

Please visit the State Courts website at this link for more information on the criminal mediation process.

For more information on the different types of legal remedies available to victims of harassment, please see the infographic below.