1. Madam Deputy Speaker, on behalf of the Minister for Social and Family Development, I beg to move, “That the Bill be now read a second time.” With your permission, Madam, may I request the Clerks to distribute an infographic on the Bill. Members may also access the handout through the MP@SGPARL App.
2. Strong and stable families are the foundation upon which we nurture and build resilient individuals. A family is where we should feel safe and supported. Unfortunately, some families are not a safe haven, as there is violence within the home. No one should experience violence, especially at the hands of a person whom they love and trust.
3. According to the World Health Organization, globally, about 1 in 3 women worldwide have been subjected to either physical, sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. In comparison, a 2019 review by the National Council of Social Service in Singapore estimated that about 3% of Singapore’s population (of men and women) experienced some form of domestic violence based on administrative data, but this ranges from 3% to 20% based on self-reported data. While these numbers are lower than global rates, we must aspire as a society to see that no one suffers from family violence.
4. We saw in the past few years that the pandemic had cast a spotlight on family violence, given the added stress of balancing family commitments and work commitments amidst the heightened uncertainty. Since the launch of MSF’s National Anti-Violence and Sexual Harassment Helpline, or NAVH in 2021, the number of calls received has increased from 8,400 to 10,800 in 2022. Of all the enquiries received by NAVH, an average of about 3,000 enquiries per year were related to abuse or violence.
5. Family Violence is a complex issue.
a. Family violence can take various forms. Besides physical and sexual abuse, emotional and psychological abuse, such as exerting control over another’s behaviour or victim blaming, is also a form of violence. While such abuse may be less visible or less understood, the harm that is caused to the survivor is no less significant.
b. Another reason why family violence is complex is because there is no single cause of family violence. The Intergenerational Transmission of Criminality and Other Social Disadvantages (INTRACS) study, conducted by MSF and NCSS – suggested that family violence tends to co-occur with negative life experiences and other factors such as prior contact with child protection and welfare, or criminal justice systems, and early marriage and parenthood before the age of 21. Hence, the reasons for committing violence could be due to deep-seated issues such as perpetrators themselves being abused or being a witness to violence in their own homes as a child; or an inability to cope with stressors such as unemployment, financial difficulties, parenting, or other issues. Medical or mental health conditions, addiction issues or disabilities may also impact one’s ability to manage emotions in a healthy way.
c. The third cause as to why family violence is complex because it often happens behind closed doors which makes it harder to detect. Survivors may hesitate to seek help due to shame, stigma, fear of breaking up their family and the perception that family violence is a personal matter. Similarly, individuals who observe family violence may remain as passive bystanders because they also consider it a private family matter.
d. Last but not least, family violence can have a detrimental impact on the next generation. The INTRACS study which I mentioned earlier found that children whose parents had contact with the Personal Protection Order system were 7.63 times more likely to have contact with the child protective system.
6. Family violence goes against the fundamental values of our society. This is why we are strengthening legislation to better protect survivors and enhance the rehabilitation and accountability of perpetrators. Once protection and safety objectives have been achieved, we need to help perpetrators rehabilitate, and families to heal relationships, and reconcile. This will help to break the cycle of violence.
B. Taskforce on Family Violence
7. In developing the strategies to tackle family violence, the Government consulted widely with experts and professionals from the healthcare, social services and legal sectors and members of the public to garner different perspectives and ideas to address this issue comprehensively. We did this through the multi-stakeholder Taskforce on Family Violence which I co-chaired with Minister of State for Home Affairs, Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim from 2019 to 2021. The Taskforce’s work culminated in its 16 recommendations released in September 2021.
8. I would like to state my deepest appreciation to the members of the Taskforce. Your views, ideas and feedback helped us to better understand the gaps in the family violence landscape and to co-create solutions to address them. Beyond the Taskforce, many from all walks of life, including survivors, perpetrators, friends and relatives of survivors of family violence, lawyers, and healthcare workers, also shared their feedback, which helped us shape the amendments in this Bill.
9. I would like to recognise the Protection Specialist Centres – TRANS Safe Centre, Care Corner Project StART and PAVE – for their tireless efforts in providing dedicated services and support for persons experiencing domestic violence over the years. In particular, during the Covid-19 pandemic you stepped up to keep families safe from violence, handling more than 4,500 enquiries and 1,100 cases in 2020 when we had the circuit breaker period, a notable increase from about 3,200 enquiries and 960 cases in 2019.
10. I would also like to thank our crisis shelters – Anglican Family Centre, Casa Raudha Women Home, Good Shepherd Centre and Star Shelter – for providing a safe haven for about 500 clients last year to recover from their trauma and regain confidence in living a life free from violence. I also thank New Hope Community Services for providing temporary shelter to male survivors. Additionally, I would like to acknowledge Lutheran Community Care Services for their efforts in providing a safe space for male survivors of family violence to discuss their experiences and widen their support networks.
11. I am deeply touched by the dedication of all our social service professionals. You have invested much time and effort to support and keep survivors safe. Some of you also work with perpetrators in their rehabilitation journey. Sometimes you yourselves face risks because of the work that you do, especially when the family situation is volatile. Your unwavering commitment has helped to keep our families safe.
Implementation Progress of Taskforce’s Recommendations
12. I am glad to share that the recommendations of the Taskforce have been progressively implemented, since the report was released in 2021.
13. To increase awareness and strengthen societal attitudes against violence:
a. MSF refreshed our Break the Silence public education campaign in 2021 to increase the awareness of different types of abuse, including non-physical abuse, and to encourage survivors and bystanders to seek help. As part of the refreshed campaign, we introduced the use of the “Signal for Help” hand sign that survivors can use to discreetly call for help.
b. Through the Family and Domestic Violence Awareness Training, more than 5,000 people across the people, public, and private sectors have been trained to spot and report signs of family violence and we will continue to extend our training and outreach.
14. To make it easier for survivors and the community to report violence and get immediate help:
a. We now have an online channel as an additional mode of reporting to the 24-hour National Anti-Violence and Sexual Harassment Helpline.
b. MSF launched a 24-hour Domestic Violence Emergency Response Team in April this year.
c. The Victim Care Cadre Programme has been offered to those below 18 years of age, to provide them with greater support during Police investigations.
d. The Home Team Community Assistance and Referral Scheme otherwise known as HT CARES, which was piloted in Bedok Land Division in 2019, has been expanded to all Police Land Divisions since September 2021.
15. To strengthen protection and support for survivors:
a. Forensic-trained psychologists have been deployed to the Protection Specialist Centres since September 2022.
b. Selected Police officers from the Community Policing Unit have been appointed across the Police Land Divisions since July 2022 to specialise in the management of family violence cases and escalate potential high-risk cases for social intervention.
c. The Police also set up the Sexual Crime and Family Violence Command in April this year for better oversight of the management of sexual crime and family violence cases.
d. The Police Training Workgroup was set up by the Police and MSF in June 2021 to enhance training for frontline Police officers in engaging and managing family violence cases. The training curriculum was co-developed with members of the workgroup with professional experience and practice wisdom such as Family Service Centres, The Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations, crisis shelters and the Family Justice Courts.
16. Finally, the Bill before us today brings to fruition all the legislative amendments required to give effect to the proposed recommendations of the Taskforce.
C. Protection Under the Women’s Charter
17. The Women’s Charter provides protection for all survivors of family violence, regardless of gender. Since its enactment in 1961, the Women’s Charter sets out how family and family relationships should be managed in statute. Hence, the amendments are parked under the Women’s Charter for historical reasons. The MSF is prepared to consider the possibility of enacting a standalone Domestic Violence Act in the future to enhance protection for persons in intimate non-familial relationships. We will need some time to consult the relevant stakeholders and we will share more details when ready. For now, the Bill with the proposed amendments will replace the family violence framework in the Women’s Charter with a more comprehensive regime.
18. Under the Women’s Charter, survivors may apply for a Personal Protection Order (or PPO) under the Women’s Charter to restrain their family members from committing further violence against them. Last year, about 2,000 PPO applications were made to the Family Justice Courts, of which 25% were made by men.
D. Family Violence Amendments
19. I will now elaborate on the key amendments made by the Bill, starting with the definition of family violence.
20. The new section 58B updates the existing definition of “family violence” by making clear that family violence includes physical, sexual, emotional and psychological abuse. The updated definition is aligned with how abuse is defined in other acts such as the Children and Young Persons Act 1993 and the Vulnerable Adults Act 2018. The Bill makes clear that abuse may take the form of a single instance of conduct or behaviour, or a course of conduct or behaviour.
21. The definition of sexual abuse includes conduct or behaviour that coerces, or attempts to coerce, a person to engage in sexual activity.
22. Illustrations on emotional or psychological abuse are given in the Bill, to raise understanding and aid discernment of these forms of abuse. Stakeholders have shared situations where perpetrators threaten to withhold monthly allowance from their spouses, constantly call their spouses to check on their whereabouts, and isolate them from their friends or family, including disallowing them to leave the house. If the spouses do not comply, they may be threatened by the perpetrator. These egregious forms of controlling behaviour – which falls within the definition of what some other jurisdictions call “coercive control” – can cause distress or mental harm to a survivor and would be considered emotional or psychological abuse under the new Bill.
23. MSF had considered whether to include financial abuse in the definition of family violence. Financial abuse is a complex issue and subjected to different interpretations. As pointed out in the report by the Taskforce on Family Violence, financial abuse is an emerging issue and it requires further study. We are working with relevant stakeholders and partners to study this issue further.
24. The updated definition of family violence would protect persons like Mrs B – a Long-Term Visit Pass Holder living in Singapore with her husband Mr B and their son. Mr B would often exert power and control over his wife by threatening to chase her out of their house and not to renew her Long-Term Visit Pass, leaving her with no other physical or financial resource. Mrs B and her son had also suffered serious physical abuse from Mr B. Due to the immense fear of Mr B’s threats, Mrs B was afraid to apply for a PPO against her husband as it might result in her being chased out of the house and separated from her child. The new amendments would provide greater assurance to people like Mrs B that such controlling behaviours is a form of abuse and that remedies are available to her.
25. Next, I will elaborate on the key provisions in Clause 2. These fall under three focal areas:
a. Focal Area One: Empowering family violence survivors to better protect themselves,
b. Focal Area Two: Strengthening the Government’s ability to intervene in family violence cases, and
c. Focal Area Three: Empowering the Court to make additional rehabilitative orders, and strengthening enforcement against breaches including raising penalties.
E. Focal Area One: Empowering family violence survivors to better protect themselves
26. The first focal area is on empowering family violence survivors to better protect themselves.
27. The new section 60 allows younger survivors to apply for a PPO on their own. Unmarried persons aged 18 to below 21 years old will no longer need to rely on guardians, relatives, persons responsible for their care or persons appointed by the Minister to apply for a PPO on their behalf. The new section 63 also removes the need for them to act through a litigation representative. These amendments ensure that survivors receive timely legal protection.
28. Today, the Court may issue a Counselling Order or a Domestic Exclusion Order together with a PPO. A Domestic Exclusion Order excludes a perpetrator from the entire or a part of the home. However, there have been cases where perpetrators continue to harass survivors outside their homes or make threats via text messages.
29. For better legal protection, the new section 60B allows survivors to apply for a Stay Away Order or a No Contact Order or both to be imposed on the perpetrator. This is in addition to Counselling and Domestic Exclusion Orders, which are already available. The perpetrator who is subjected to a Stay Away Order cannot enter or remain in areas frequented by the survivor, such as a workplace, or a childcare centre where the survivor has enrolled their child. A No Contact Order prohibits visits or communications with the survivor. The Court will make these orders if it is satisfied that it is necessary for the safety and protection of the survivor. Breaches of these Court orders will be an arrestable offence punishable with an imprisonment and/or fine.
30. The new section 63B protects a survivor’s identity. It prohibits any publication or broadcast – including on social media – that is likely to identify the survivor, unless the approval of the Director-General of Social Welfare and the consent of the survivor have been obtained. The Court will also be empowered to order the removal of any unauthorised publication or broadcast. Failure to comply with a takedown order will be an offence punishable with a fine.
F. Focal Area Two: Strengthening the Government’s ability to intervene in family violence cases
31. The second focal area is on strengthening the Government’s ability to intervene in family violence cases.
32. MSF has statutory powers to protect children and vulnerable adults under the Children and Young Persons Act and Vulnerable Adults Act respectively.
33. In cases where an adult (such as a spouse or a parent who is not vulnerable under the Vulnerable Adults Act) is subjected to violence from another family member, the approach under the existing law is different. The operative principle is to respect an adult survivor’s right to self-determination. The law only comes in when the adult survivor chooses to seek help from his or her relatives, friends or the community.
34. This approach is no longer sufficient. In recent times, social service agencies and the Government have encountered cases where adult survivors with mental capacity chose not to keep themselves safe, often putting themselves at risk of harm. The Bill empowers the Government to step in to protect such survivors and to intervene judiciously for their personal safety.
35. For this, the Bill grants powers to persons referred to as “Protectors”. Protectors are persons with suitable qualifications and experiences who are appointed by the Director-General of Social Welfare to carry out statutory duties and functions under the new Part 7.
36. Under the new sections 62 to 62C, Protectors will be able to issue Emergency Orders on site in high-risk cases. In line with the Taskforce’s recommendation, this will better protect the survivors at the onset of violence while further action is taken to ensure their safety, such as applying for a PPO or an Expedited Order or putting in place a safety plan.
37. An Emergency Order will be issued if the Protector is satisfied that there is a danger of the perpetrator committing family violence imminently against the survivor. It takes effect immediately and is valid for 14 days to give the survivor time to apply for a PPO. The Emergency Order may also include a Domestic Exclusion Order, a Stay Away Order, a No Contact Order, or a combination of these additional orders. A breach of any of these orders will be an arrestable offence.
38. Emergency Orders will be useful for persons such as Mr D, a 20-year-old tertiary student who was repeatedly hit and punched by his stepfather. Mr D’s mother was unable to protect him and the violence continued. With the help of social work professionals from the Protection Specialist Centre, he moved to a transitional shelter. Though he was safe, he had to live apart from his mother and stepsiblings whom he wanted to continue living with. In such cases, an Emergency Order would be issued to Mr D’s stepfather immediately at scene, restraining him from committing further violence. A Domestic Exclusion Order could also be issued to prohibit Mr D’s stepfather from being at home, thus, ensuring Mr D’s safety while allowing him to continue living with his mother and stepsiblings.
39. The Emergency Order is meant to be a stopgap measure. PPOs and other related Court Orders will continue to offer the main and longer-term protection against family violence. As a safeguard, Protectors will be limited to making up to four Emergency Orders against a given perpetrator within three months. This period would give sufficient time for social service professionals to de-escalate the tension, put in place a safety plan for the survivor, provide the necessary intervention and allow the survivor to apply for a PPO.
40. The new sections 59 to 59E introduce provisions for MSF to obtain information about family violence.
a. Protectors will be allowed to assess and obtain information on whether a person has experienced or is at risk of experiencing family violence. They will be conferred powers to enter the home to make an assessment where needed. A Protector will also be empowered to direct an individual to disclose information or provide relevant records relating to the person who has experienced or is experiencing family violence.
b. Those who report suspected family violence cases to Protectors, the Police or other authorised persons will be protected from criminal or civil liability if they have acted in good faith and with reasonable care. This is to encourage more people to step forward to report family violence.
41. The next group of amendments aim to protect survivors who are at risk of danger, but are unwilling to take action to protect themselves.
42. Members may recall a 2017 case of a 30-year-old Master’s degree student who physically abused his 68-year-old mother, Mdm Y. He starved her, did not allow her to shower or to make noise when he was stressed with his studies. He also hit her face and assaulted her private parts with a metal padlock and with his knee. Despite being hospitalised multiple times for serious injuries and being placed in a safe house, Mdm Y insisted on returning home. As she did not want to implicate her son, she did not attribute the injuries to his conduct. She also did not retaliate whenever he took out his frustrations on her.
43. This Bill will better protect persons like Mdm Y.
a. The new section 60 allows Protectors to make applications for PPOs, Stay Away, No Contact, Domestic Exclusion or Counselling Orders on behalf of survivors, even if the survivor does not consent. Currently, a family member, guardian or relative or appointed persons can only step in to apply for PPOs on behalf of survivors below 21 years of age or who are incapacitated. However, as seen in Mdm Y’s case, not all survivors will choose to keep themselves safe, sometimes due to the perpetrator exerting undue influence over the survivor. Allowing Protectors to apply for PPOs and other orders on behalf of a survivor will strengthen the protection for survivors whose safety is seriously threatened but who refuse to apply for a PPO.
b. The new section 60C allows Protectors to apply to the Court for electronic monitoring. Electronic monitoring, which could include e-tagging, will be used against high-risk perpetrators in exceptional cases, where there is reasonable suspicion that a PPO has been breached with harm inflicted on the survivor, and the survivor has not taken steps to protect himself or herself.
c. E-tagging is not new. It has been used by the Police for accused persons released on Court bail. MSF also uses e-tagging on probationers. Through e-tagging, the authorities can be alerted if, for example, a perpetrator with a Domestic Exclusion Order made against him or her enters the survivor’s home, so action can be taken quickly.
d. As electronic monitoring is intended for high-risk perpetrators, only Protectors may apply for electronic monitoring, after an assessment is made on the circumstances of each case. Details of the electronic monitoring regime will be worked on further by MSF.
e. As a last resort and when all other interventions fail, the new section 60D allows Protectors to apply to the Court to remove a survivor from his or her home. The Court must be satisfied that a Removal Order is necessary for the protection or personal safety of the survivor. When making a Removal Order, the Court must also make a Care Order, a Supervision Order, or both of these Orders. A Care Order commits the survivor to the care of a fit person. A Supervision Order places the survivor under the supervision of a Protector or another suitable person appointed by the Court for a specified period. The Court may also make an order against the survivor, prohibiting the survivor from returning home, or visiting or communicating with the perpetrator. I would like to highlight that the intent of section 60D is to protect the survivor. Prohibiting the survivor from returning home is to protect the survivor from potential further harm.
f. If the survivor is removed from his or her home, the survivor may be admitted into a residential facility, such as a crisis shelter. It will not be an offence if the survivor contravenes these orders, but the contravention must be taken into account by the Court when deciding whether to vary, suspend or revoke a Care Order or Supervision Order.
g. MSF’s approach to family violence cases is that perpetrators, not survivors, should be held accountable for the violence. Hence, Protectors will only apply for a removal order in exceptional, high-risk cases. Other alternatives such as electronic monitoring of the perpetrator will be considered before removing a survivor from his or her home. We will also ensure that adequate intervention is provided to the survivor prior to, during and after his or her removal, to mitigate any negative impact the removal might have on the survivor.
h. In the earlier case of Mdm Y who was severely abused by her 30-year-old son and who did not take steps to protect herself, with the new amendments, a Protector would be able to apply for a PPO with a Domestic Exclusion Order against her son to prohibit him from returning home, even if Mdm Y does not consent. The Protector may make a Police report if there is a breach of the PPO or the Domestic Exclusion Order. A breach of these orders is an arrestable offence. In addition, if there is reasonable suspicion that the PPO or Domestic Exclusion Order has been breached with harm inflicted on the survivor, the Protector may also apply for Electronic Monitoring for her son. As a last resort, if all interventions fail, a Protector can apply to the Court for Mdm Y to be removed from her home. If granted, she will be placed in a crisis shelter for a specified period until it is safe for her to return home.
44. It was not easy for MSF and the Taskforce to formulate this group of amendments. The Government would rather not have to introduce such powers. However, real-life cases show that complex dynamics exist between perpetrators and survivors. Giving due weight to the principle of protecting lives and preventing further harm, the Government therefore carefully calibrated the amendments under Focal Area Two. Necessary safeguards are put in place to strike a balance between pushing the legal frontiers of protection for survivors and avoiding statutory over-reach.
G. Focal Area Three: Empowering the Court to make additional rehabilitative orders, raise penalties and strengthen enforcement against breaches
45. The third focal area is on empowering the Court to make additional rehabilitative orders, raise penalties and strengthen enforcement against breaches of family violence-related offences.
46. Not only do survivors need a supportive environment to heal from their trauma, perpetrators also need a safe environment where they can share their struggles openly, without being judged. This set of amendments aims to address the root causes of family violence perpetration, and to provide the necessary support to perpetrators in their rehabilitation journey. With appropriate support and intervention, perpetrators can learn to better manage their emotions and behaviours, to break the cycle of violence.
47. During last year’s National Family Violence Networking System Conference, I met a group of men from Thye Hua Kwan Family Service Centre’s Brotherhood Programme. This programme supports males who had past histories of aggressive episodes towards their loved ones. These men were supported to examine the consequences of their aggression on their loved ones. With the support of fellow male participants, they experienced positive behavioural changes.
48. During the Conference, the participants of this Programme sung a self-composed song titled, ‘A Better Man’. I would like to quote a verse from the song: “Please hear my story, please don’t deny me. A tiny seed of hope is crying to see. With a heart of gold and all the love in the world, give us one more chance to start again.”
49. I applaud these individuals who took the bold step to try to become a better person for themselves, their families, friends and the community. MSF and our community partners are committed to supporting perpetrators, whether male or female, in their rehabilitation journey.
50. Currently, to rehabilitate perpetrators, the Court may make a Counselling Order when it issues a PPO. About 93% of PPOs issued from 2018 to 2022 were tagged with a Counselling Order. A person under a Counselling Order – and this may be the perpetrator, survivor, or a child – is required to attend a counselling programme offered by social service agencies appointed by the MSF.
51. With a greater focus on rehabilitation of perpetrators, the new section 60E expands the scope of the existing Counselling Order to include other programmes, treatments and interventions. These include parenting programmes, caregiver training, or family therapy and other programmes which cater better to the risk levels and unique needs of each perpetrator.
52. Counselling will help perpetrators such as Mr Y, caregiver of his wheelchair-bound mother. Mr Y threatened his mother with a knife and threw away her medication as he did not think the medication was effective. Through the Court-ordered mandatory counselling, Mr Y gained insight into his mother’s care needs and the impact of his actions on her. He also completed a caregiver training to better care for his mother. Upon the completion of the mandatory counselling sessions, Mr Y voluntarily continued with additional counselling sessions and showed significant improvement in his behaviour. Mr Y and his mother now enjoy a better relationship with no further incidence of violence.
53. However, counselling may not be effective for all persons. The MSF study on the Intergenerational Transmission of Criminality and Other Social Disadvantages (INTRACS) which I referred to earlier, found that among those who had PPO applications made against them, approximately 14% had been diagnosed with mental health conditions prior to the first PPO application. The new section 60F empowers the Court to make Mandatory Treatment Orders against perpetrators under a PPO whose psychiatric condition is likely to be a contributing factor to the occurrence of family violence. The Bill lists several conditions which must be fulfilled, before the Court can make a Mandatory Treatment Order. This takes reference from the Mandatory Treatment Order regime under the Protection from Harassment Act.
54. First, the Court may call for a specified psychiatrist to provide a preliminary assessment report for the Court to decide if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the perpetrator is likely to be suffering from a psychiatric condition, and that the psychiatric condition is likely to be a contributing factor for that person committing family violence.
55. If the Court considers that reasonable grounds exist, the Court must call for a formal assessment report on the perpetrator by an appointed psychiatrist. The psychiatrist must assess and report on, firstly, whether the perpetrator is suffering from a psychiatric condition; secondly, that the condition is a contributing factor for the perpetrator’s commission of family violence which was the basis of his or her PPO; thirdly, that the psychiatric condition must be susceptible to treatment; and lastly, whether the perpetrator is suitable for treatment. The Bill also specifies other factors the psychiatrist must consider. A Mandatory Treatment Order can only be made if the psychiatrist’s formal assessment report certifies that all these factors are met.
56. A perpetrator under a Mandatory Treatment Order may receive up to 36 months of treatment, which may include a requirement to reside in a psychiatric institution or a place providing psychiatric treatment.
57. Currently, when a PPO has been revoked or has expired, a Counselling Order will also cease to have effect. This will no longer be the case after we pass the amendments. Under the Bill, a Counselling Order and a Mandatory Treatment Order will survive the PPO, so that the necessary interventions can be completed to ensure that the root cause of family violence is addressed, to avoid recurrence of family violence against current or future family members.
58. The Bill also introduces factors that the Court must consider before revoking a PPO. Where a Counselling Order or a Mandatory Treatment Order was made, the Court must consider any report by the counselling agency or the appointed psychiatrist. The Court will also consider if there remains a risk of family violence and whether the survivor’s consent to the revocation was made voluntarily.
59. To ensure perpetrators take their rehabilitation seriously, we will strengthen enforcement and penalties against breaches of Court orders.
a. First, the Bill increases the penalties for breaches of family violence-related Court orders. For a first conviction, the offender can be fined or imprisoned, or both. The fine will be raised to a maximum of $10,000, from $2,000 today, and the imprisonment term will be increased to a maximum of 12 months. On conviction, an offender can be fined or imprisoned, or both. The penalties will minimally be on par with the enhanced penalties for breaches of Protection orders under the Protection from Harassment Act where the victim is a vulnerable person, or is or was in an intimate relationship with the offender.
b. Second, the Bill makes breaches of a Counselling Order or Mandatory Treatment Order an offence. This amendment arose in response to stakeholders’ feedback that some perpetrators did not take Counselling Orders seriously, including not turning up for counselling sessions. Currently, the survivor may apply for an order of committal against the perpetrator, if the perpetrator does not attend counselling. However, as there are several court procedures involved, survivors may be deterred from doing so. To hold perpetrators accountable, breaches of Counselling Orders and Mandatory Treatment Orders will be an offence, with the perpetrator liable to a fine on conviction.
60. The new sections 64 to 64G introduce new powers to enable MSF’s enforcement officers to detect and investigate offences under the new Part 7. These powers include powers to enter premises or seize documents for evidence of an offence.
61. Madam Deputy Speaker, in Mandarin, please.
H. Other Amendments
74. The other amendments made by the Bill are sufficiently described by the explanatory statement and I will not go into them.
75. Kindly let me conclude. This Bill reflects the Government’s strong stance against violence and our commitment to keeping families safe, in partnership with the community and the general public. We aim to address the risks and needs of both survivors and perpetrators, and support them towards family reconciliation, where possible.
76. The Bill builds on past efforts by the Government and the social service sector to tackle family violence. This is a whole-of-society effort, where everyone has a part to play to help families break the cycle of violence. Thank you