Children Act may be extended to cover those aged 16 up to 18
MSF proposes changes to support more young offenders as well as those who have been abused or neglected.
A law which aims to support children exposed to abuse, neglect or risk could be extended to cover young offenders from the age of 16 until they turn 18.
The Children and Young Persons Act was first enacted in 1949, and last amended in 2011, to provide for the welfare, care, protection and rehabilitation of children under 16.
It supports children who have committed offences, those who have been abused or neglected by their parents or caregivers, and those whose parents are seeking the court's guidance to improve their behaviour.
Currently, offenders aged 16 to below 18 are treated as adults before the courts.
However, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) announced a proposal yesterday to extend the Act to cover this group of offenders.
MSF said in a statement that the amendment would allow young offenders, who may lack the cognitive maturity of adults, to benefit from more age-appropriate and rehabilitation-focused options provided by the community and residential facilities.
The move would also protect the identity and privacy of the young offenders to better facilitate their reintegration into society.
It added: "At the same time, while the young offender's rehabilitation is an important goal, public safety is also important. Hence, the Children and Young Persons Act today provides different sentencing options, where appropriate, for young offenders who commit grave offences such as murder."
The recommendation is part of a series of proposed amendments to the Children and Young Persons Act put forward by the MSF for the public to give feedback.
The proposal to raise the age limit to below 18 will cover not only offenders but also those who are in need of care or protection. For example, those who are abused or neglected by their parents or caregivers will be covered too.
The ministry said: "We recognise that these older youths may not have the physical ability or maturity to remove themselves from harm's way. This proposal allows MSF and our community partners to intervene and protect these older youths."
Other recommendations include enabling the court to grant a Long-Term Care Order for a child who, in spite of best efforts by professionals and the community, cannot be reunited with the family.
The order authorises a designated person, who is not the child's natural parent or guardian, to make decisions on the child's behalf - such as those relating to their development, welfare, medical treatment and participation in school activities.
MSF said it consulted various voluntary welfare organisations and relevant agencies in the children and youth services sector before drawing up the recommendations.
The discussion to raise the age in the Children and Young Persons Act to below 18 years old was brought up several times in Parliament by Aljunied GRC MP Sylvia Lim last year.
Experts welcome the proposed recommendations.
Lawyer Amolat Singh said: "Rehabilitation is still the primary objective for these (young offenders). In the twilight ages between 16 and 18, the youths may have done something in a moment of folly.
"The proposed amendments show that society is more forgiving and willing to throw a lifeline to those in need."
Mr Alfred Tan, chief executive of the Singapore Children's Society, said: "There is evidence to show that with today's complexities and problems, young people need a lot of help, even at 18. Engaging them and developing their life skills through programmes at this age is crucial."
Details of the proposed amendments are available on https://www.reach.gov.sg/
The public can send their views via e-mail to [email protected] by March 21.
There is evidence to show that with today's complexities and problems, young people need a lot of help, even at 18. Engaging them and developing their life skills through programmes at this age is crucial.
MR ALFRED TAN, chief executive of the Singapore Children's Society.
Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.