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As the curtains draw close on this academic year, I am grateful for the opportunity to take stock of some of the highlights from our year at the NUS Criminal Justice Club, and express our gratitude to our sponsors, advisors, and members that made it possible.
Pro Bono Work
CJC is honoured to have been awarded the RHT Law Asia Subhas Anandan Pro Bono Grant for the Academic Year 2022-2023, which supported our pro bono efforts for the year.

Pictured: Mr John Thomas George (President, CJC) receiving the Grant on behalf of CJC from Mr Yang Eu Jin (Partner, RHT Law Asia)
The CJC-CLAS Project continues to promote student volunteering in criminal law pro bono work, sending many tireless volunteers on attachments with the ProBonoSG Office and individual practitioners engaged in live cases under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, or the Legal Aid Scheme for Capital Offences. The Recourse Initiative Project has also continued to expand, taking on dozens of requests from incarcerated persons, to review their cases. We are proud of our two pro bono arms, who were able to respond to every request that they received this year. The good work continues, as our Events Project prepares to conduct the NPCC Basic Law Course 2023, to raise awareness of criminal law issues among the youth.
Enhancing Knowledge of the Law
2023 saw the return of events held in-person, and we were honoured to play host to Ministers, senior practitioners, and alumni alike, who took the time to discuss contemporary criminal law issues with NUS students at our events. Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ms Rahayu Mahzam, graced our annual Forensic Science Conference as the Keynote Speaker, joining a distinguished panel alongside Mr Eugene Thuraisingam, Mr Leon Chan, Dr Kenneth Koh and Professor Eric Chan, who considered recent trends and developments in the rise of drug abuse and trafficking offences here. CJC is grateful for the support of Kalco Law LLC, I.R.B. Law LLP, and Regal Law LLC, who sponsored the event.

Pictured: Our discussion panel at the Forensic Science Conference 2023
In keeping with our mission to promote student engagement with criminal law issues outside of our classrooms, the CJC Events Project organized the Criminal Practioner’s Dialogue and Behind the Books Dialogue. The annual Behind the Books Dialogue for this year was based on a discussion of the Actus Reus and Mens Rea elements of Section 300(c) of the Penal Code, and we were fortunate for the knowledge imparted by Professor Kumaralingam Amirthalingam, Adjunct Professor Bala Reddy and Mr Julian Tay, who were involved in some of the landmark cases.

Pictured: Our panel for the Behind the Books Dialogue 2023
Refining Crucial Professional Skills
There were ample opportunities for our students to hone their advocacy skills at the annual Attorney-General’s Cup, where our finalists battled it out before a distinguished panel comprising Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar S.C, The Honorable Justice Aedit Abdullah, and The Honorable Justice Mavis Chionh.

Pictured: Our Judges and Finalists at the Finals of the Attorney-General’s Cup 2023
CJC-Forensic’s annual Expert Witness Advocacy Cup, sponsored by Vaswani Law Chambers LLC, was open to students from both the NUS Law, and NUS Forensic Science courses. Aspiring litigators and expert witnesses alike were given the chance to hone their courtroom skills and engage with the complexities of forensic science in the context of a complex trial.

Pictured: Our Judges and Finalists at the Finals of the Expert Witness Advocacy Cup 2023
We are also proud of our CJC members from across our projects, who have contributed academic articles on contemporary legal issues to the newly launched Criminal Law Digest, and we hope to carry on this momentum into the coming year. The stage is now set for our Military Justice Project, who have finished penning the Defending Officer’s Guidebook. This Guidebook is a compendium of the hard-won knowledge of our volunteers and alumni, unified in their desire to bring clarity to the military justice process for active servicemen. MJP is targeting an official launch of the Guidebook in tandem with their annual Military Justice Roundtable Conference, to be held later this year.
Recent developments have thrust the concept of criminal justice back into the spotlight of contemporary public debate, and even prompted a reevaluation by the legal profession over its responsibility for criminal pro bono work. Just as the concept of criminal justice continues to take on the changing colours of the moving social and legal landscape in Singapore, we here at the NUS Criminal Justice Club continue to look for new ways to understand, to help, and to meaningfully engage with this process.
Written by John Thomas George (NUS CJC President, 2022/2023)

Ms Monica Baey had sparked a national debate after bringing to light her experiences with sexual harassment on campus. She was a victim of voyeurism, where her harasser deliberately and wilfully intruded upon her privacy when he secretly filmed her while she was showering. Voyeurism, an act that has recently gained traction in the local discourse about sexual misconduct since the Monica Baey exposé, will now be punishable under section 377BB of the Penal Code.

Key policy changes

Changes to statutes

To better combat offences relating to voyeurism, the new section 377BB was introduced with effect from 1 January 2020, which establishes a specific offence for voyeurism. This provision was enacted due to the recent rise in voyeurism cases, as well as the increasing use of technology to commit such offences.


s 377BB’s gender neutral language recognises the reality that any individual, regardless of their gender, can potentially be a victim of voyeurism. To this end, the word “woman” used in s 509 has been replaced with “person” in s 377BB.


Here is a rough breakdown of s 377BB:
  1. At its most basic level, s 377 BB(1) makes it an offence for a person (A) to observe another person (B) doing a private act without B’s consent (and with the knowledge or belief that B does not consent).
  2. The other subsections ss 377BB(2) and (3) gradually build on this by targeting voyeurism which is achieved either through operating equipment to observe person (B) or in situations where person (A) intentionally or knowingly records person (B).
  3. ss 377BB(4) and (5) deal with the aggravated situation where person (A) operates equipment to observe or record (B)’s private parts.


Changes to sentencing

The maximum sentence that can be imposed on an individual who is found guilty under s 377BB is 2 years’ imprisonment. This is double the previous 1 year maximum jail term for the offence of insulting modesty under s 509. In addition, a fine or caning, or any such combination of all three punishments can also be imposed. Where the offence is committed against a person below 14 years old, imprisonment will be made mandatory. The prevalence of voyeurism cases imposes the need for a higher punishment to deter the proliferation of voyeuristic recordings.


Motivations behind these changes

Previously, voyeurism was dealt under s 509 ‘Insulting the Modesty of a Woman’ in the Penal Code. This section provided as such:

“Whoever, intending to insult the modesty of any woman, utters any word, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen by such woman, or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.”

While there were only 8 charges under s 509 between 2001 and 2008, the number of charges surged between 2008 to 2021, reaching a whopping total of 2826 charges. The increase in prosecutions can most likely be attributed to the advancements in technology. However, there was no specific provision to deal with this contemporary problem of voyeurism through technology, leading to s 509 being used instead. For instance, in PP v Chandran s/o Natesan [2013] SGDC 33, the Defendant was charged under s 509 for the offence of uttering words intended to insult the modesty of a woman. Similarly, in PP v Tan Huat Heng [2012] SGMC 1, the Defendant who was found guilty of the more severe offence of using his camera phone to take “up-skirt” videos of several women, was also charged under s 509.

Furthermore, since voyeurism was dealt under ‘Insulting the Modesty of a Woman’, the accused could not be charged under s 509 if the victim was male. Instead, the accused would be charged with another offence. While male victims of voyeurism are rare, they still exist. For example, Mr Koh Kah Hock had filmed men showering in a clubhouse without their knowledge and kept their obscene videos on his laptop. For his acts, since Mr Koh could not be charged under s 509, he was merely charged with making obscene films.

The key problems of s 509 can be summarised as follows:

  1. As a repurposed piece of legislation, it was not adequately equipped to deal with voyeurism. Since the offence was gender-specific, voyeuristic videos taken of men without their consent could not be prosecuted under section 509 and had to be dealt with potentially under the films act, which led to different sentencing outcomes.
  2. It does not contemplate the myriad of ways voyeurism could be committed. Hence, all offenders were subjected to the same range of punishments and the Courts were left to rely on aggravating factors to distinguish between varying degrees of culpability.

In formulating its recommendations on the voyeurism offence, the Penal Code Review Committee studied other countries’ approaches, namely England, Wales, Scotland, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. This comparative approach to legislating is crucial to bring the law in line with contemporary social values and norms – for example, Ms Monica Baey revealed that she decided to speak out when a friend from an American university told her that the offender would have faced much harsher punishment in the USA.


The PCRC also considered the increasing ubiquity of image-capturing devices, which amplifies the potential harm arising from voyeurism. Technological improvements would mean that such crimes were no longer being contained between the victim and perpetrator, since the potential for mass dissemination is much higher. Technology has also caused the proliferation of sexual violence in cyberspace, and many people must deal with unwanted sexual massages and calls, non-consensual sharing of intimate images, voyeurism, harassment and objectification. Institutional processes must accordingly keep up with the times. The new offence of voyeurism reflects the gravity of the offence and has doubled the maximum imprisonment term from one to two years and provided for the possibility of caning as well.

Mitigating and aggravating factors regarding sentencing

With regards to sentencing under the new s 377BB, there are various aggravating and mitigating factors that can affect the harshness of the sentence handed out. The table below illustrates the types of factors and how they affect sentencing.


Aggravating factors (stiffer sentence)

Existence of planning and pre-meditation

If the offender’s criminal actions were deliberate and well thought through instead of impulsive, their actions would suggest that he had a modus operandi or systematic process in carrying out the offence.

The length of time over which the crime was committed

The longer the time over which the crime was committed, the more it suggests that the offender put in effort to commit the offences and avoid detection.

Number of victims

The greater the number of victims, the more likely the offender will receive a stiffer sentence.

Relationship with victim – was there a breach of trust?

If the offender targeted friends or colleagues, this would suggest a breach of trust and the offender taking advantage of the victims’ friendship, familiarity and/or faith in the offender.

Instruments used to commit the offence

Mobile phones are aggravating factors as offenders can commit offences more easily and replay the videos. Further, the miniaturisation of cameras would make it easier for the offenders to hide them without detection, encouraging them to take more risk to commit the offence.


Mitigating factors (lighter sentence)

Psychological condition of the offender

If there is evidence that proves that the offender is unable to control or stop himself from committing the offence due to an unsoundness of mind, a Mandatory Treatment Order (MTO) would usually be given instead of a jail sentence. A MTO would require the offender to undergo psychiatric treatment at a psychiatric institution for up to 36 months.

Previous criminal records

If the offender had a clean record, it could mean that what he/she did was totally out of character.


However, a clean record may not have much mitigating value if the offender is convicted of a string of offences committed over a period of time because it means that he
had just not been caught earlier.

How have the changes affected sentencing

While the changes made to the Penal Code are still relatively new, there is a recent case that has applied the updated sentencing principles.


In PP v Sean Lee Yang, the accused had placed a spycam with an SD card in a gym, with the intention of recording men urinating without their consent. By installing a piece of equipment with the intention of enabling himself to commit an offence under s 377BB (3) of the Penal Code, the offender has committed an offence under s 377BB (6), punishable under section 377BB (7).


The prosecution highlighted the following aggravating factors for the offence under s 377BB(6):

  1. The offender’s great degree of foresight and premeditation, since he had purchased the spycam 2 weeks prior and experimented with it prior to his offence.
  2. The captured recordings could be repeatedly re-viewed by the offender, or even disseminated to third parties.
  3. The offence was the last of a course of conduct that took place over one to two weeks involving multiple victims involved who were not identified as the recorded videos were not recovered.
  4. The use of miniaturised, disguised, or hidden cameras to record films of unsuspecting men in public/private toilets.


The defence counsel highlighted the following mitigation factors to urge the court to place the offender on probation or under an MTO.

  1. The offender’s previous sexual assault and PTSD.
  2. His ongoing treatment in IMH.


Taking into consideration that acts of voyeurism are on an upward trend in Singapore, as well as legislative intent for s 377BB to impose higher penalties to deal with such offences, the court held that the principle of sentencing in this case is predominantly that of deterrence. The culpability of the offender is moderately high, as he had purchased a spy camera that was disguised as an innocuous clothing hook, designed to be inconspicuous and ordinary looking. Furthermore, the offender had bought the item from Lazada, which suggests that such devices are easily accessible to the public. A strong deterrent message needed to be sent out to turn away like-minded persons from being tempted to embark on such a course.


With regards to probation, the court did not find that the offender has demonstrated “an extremely strong propensity for reform”, and thus found that rehabilitation has clearly not displaced deterrence as the primary sentencing consideration. With regards to an MTO, the court found that the offender had clearly acted with deliberation and a composed mind. He did not panic and own up immediately to his wrongdoing but instead was able to process through a plan to try to get away scot-free. Hence, the offender was not suffering from any mental disorder of a kind that could possibly satisfy the criteria for the imposition of an MTO.


Under s 377BB (6), the offender was sentenced to 2 months’ imprisonment, giving a global sentence of 6 months’ imprisonment.


In closing, this article has introduced the offence of voyeurism and highlighted key changes in the law, using a recent case to illustrate the updated sentencing principles for voyeurism cases. It is hoped that these new provisions will curb the uptick in voyeuruism and deter potential offences.  

Written by: Nancy Xu

*The views and opinions expressed in this article do not constitute legal advice and solely belong to the author and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the NUS Criminal Justice Club or its affiliates.



In the now infamous SG Nasi Lemak case, it had been revealed that there were more than 44,000 members in its Telegram group at its peak, with numerous obscene (including upskirt) photos and videos being circulated in the group. Similarly, another Telegram group known as Sammyboy Forum was found to have around 25,000 members sharing voyeuristic content. Meanwhile, outside the realm of Telegram, there has been an increase in voyeuristic cases involving university students.

But what exactly constitutes voyeurism? Briefly, voyeuristic crimes defined under section 377BB of the Singapore Penal Code are those where a person intentionally observes (with or without an equipment), records, or operates equipment to allow others to observe (1) another person doing a private act without their consent; or (2) another person’s genital region, breasts if B is female, or buttocks (whether exposed or covered) in circumstances where the genital region, breasts, buttocks or underwear would not otherwise be visible without their consent. Based on this definition, common voyeuristic crimes include (but are not limited to) “peeping Tom” incidents where perpetrators observe or record their victims in private settings (e.g. bathing, changing clothes, using the toilet etc), the taking of upskirt videos, and the taking of sexual videos without the victim’s consent, all either for the perpetrator’s own consumption or distribution to others.

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There is also a psychiatric definition for voyeurism. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (“DSM-V“) criteria, voyeurism is defined as “recurrent, intense and sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges or behaviours” involving “observing an unsuspecting person who is naked, disrobing or engaging in sexual activity with or without their consent”. Do note, however, that a psychiatric diagnosis of voyeurism does not necessarily negate the legal consequences of the crime(s) committed.

Contrary to beliefs that voyeurism is not traumatic compared to other crimes such as rape or molest due to the lack of physical contact, it should be noted that voyeurism can cause emotional and psychological distress to victims as well. These effects can be long-term and can include a wide range of symptoms such as a fear of others, depression, anxiety, flashbacks, emotional numbness and denial. As such, it is important for the recent uptick in voyeurism to be treated seriously. To this end, it is crucial to understand why people commit voyeuristic crimes in order to find effective methods of prevention. 

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Inside the Mind of Voyeurs

The stereotypical image that most people have of voyeurs – such as being unsuccessful at getting the attention of people they find attractive, or having strange thoughts or behaviours – does not necessarily reflect reality. In fact, people who have admitted to such tendencies tend to lead ‘normal’ lives, and their intelligence, education, and employment have been found to be on par with the general population. However, some differences have been found between voyeurs and the general population.

Voyeurs tend to have more psychological problems and comorbid psychiatric disorders than the general population. Psychological factors such as low self-esteem, the avoidance from problems within their life, and maladaptive coping methods have been identified in voyeurs. This means that psychological/behavioural treatment such as Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT; Gilbert, 2010), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT: Hayes, Stroshl & Wilson, 2012), aversive conditioning, masturbatory reconditioning, covert sensitisation, assertiveness training, restitution therapy, and talking therapy can be useful in such offenders. However, the prognosis of such methods would depend largely on the offender’s willingness and desire to change as well as other personality factors.

With regards to psychological treatment, theories relating to voyeurism include: the sexual deviation theory, the conditioning theory, Bio-Psycho-Social model, the Love Map theory, and the Courtship Disorder Theory. The sexual deviation theory by Hocken & Thorne 2012 suggests that a “deviant sexual interest” (voyeurism) could be a factor alongside other contributing factors such as relationships issues, low self-esteem and antisocial beliefs that could increase an individual’s risk for committing a sexual offence, where the offences are triggered by situational factors such as experiencing life problems or availability of stimuli. The conditioning theory by Law and Marshall (1990) suggests that sexual interests are learned in the same way as other people learn sexual behaviour, and that individuals learn to secure sexual reinforcement through undetected illegal behaviours if the routes to “normal” sexual behaviours have been disrupted. A third theory by Mann and Carter (2012) involves the application of the Bio- Psycho-Social model to explain sexual offending being linked to biological factors such as low levels of 5-HT in the brain (Grubin 2008), foetal development in the neuro-hormonal environment in the womb (Cantor, 2011), and childhood trauma resulting in neurological impairment (Cantor et al., 2006). The Love Map by Money (1986) suggests that a love map is formed as a child develops, and damage to it through abnormal factors such as traumatic, inappropriate or unhealthy sexual experiences can ultimately create ‘atypical’ Love Maps which includes paraphilic and also voyeuristic Love Maps. Lastly, the Courtship Disorder Theory by (Freund, 1998) suggests that individuals with voyeuristic tendencies have disorders regarding the “finding phase [of courtship] – locating and appraising a potential partner”. These theories can help in identifying how best to treat offenders, whether psychologically and/or pharmacologically.

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Meanwhile, under the Bio-Psycho-Social model, comorbid psychiatric disorders more commonly found among people who have committed sexual offenses include major depressive disorder (MDD), Autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), substance use disorder, paraphilias, and intellectual disability (it should be noted that these are for sex crimes in general and not specifically to voyeurism). This may be related to the relationship between low levels of 5-HT (i.e. serotonin) with an increase in sexual behaviors (according to Grubun 2008 and Kafka 1997). It is known that lower levels of 5-HT can cause an inability to inhibit the compulsive behaviours found in some of the above-mentioned conditions, and low levels of 5-HT could also contribute to other conditions such as depression and anxiety (which is why serotonergic antidepressants such as SSRIs, SNRIs, TCAs, and MAOis could work in some of these psychiatric conditions). Furthermore, Abouesh and Clayton (1999) found that voyeurism has similar symptoms to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which is another condition associated with low levels of 5-HT. As such, besides psychological methods to help prevent voyeurs from re-offending through psychological counseling, there have also been studies on the roles of SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) such as fluoxetine, paroxetine, sertraline, and fluvoxamine in the treatment of voyeurism which work by inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin by serotonin transporters (SERTs) at the presynaptic axon terminal which would allow more serotonin molecules to remain at the synapses.

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Several studies have also found that voyeurs tend to be males and the victims tend to be females. This has been suggested by experts to be related to misogyny and the objectification of women, as observing and recording women in intimate settings gives men a sense of power and control. An illustration on how misogyny and voyeurism could be related lies in the fact that voyeurism (or molka) is rampant in South Korea, a country where misogyny is a serious concern. This misogyny is unfortunately carried over to cases of voyeurism as well – in 2018, a petition with over 40,000 signatures was signed and a protest was held to call the Korean presidential Blue House to force the police to investigate all molka allegations seriously. While a woman was swiftly arrested and paraded in the media after she was found to have secretly filmed and posted a video of a nude male model during a university drawing class, most of the thousands of voyeurism offenders (of which 98% were male) were only made to pay a modest fine or even let off scot-free. Although Singapore’s situation is not as severe as South Korea’s, misogyny is still an issue in Singapore. For example, an Ipsos survey in 2019 on gender equality and sexual harassment found that 45 per cent of Singaporeans agree that women who wear revealing clothes should not complain if men make comments about their appearance, with this opinion being held equally among both genders – a rather concerning view with respect to the objectification of women, considering that this is a reason why some people commit voyeuristic acts.

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Online platforms such as Telegram groups also further perpetuate this issue, such as by (1) giving voyeurs a feeling of power and control to be able to monitor women (which they consider as objects of desire) in the most intimate settings, thus enabling toxic masculinity; and (2) making voyeuristic content more appealing to members due to their seemingly passive role, which in turn normalizes and emboldens perpetrators to record more of such content. This seemingly passive involvement of voyeurism makes it more appealing compared to other sex crimes (such as exhibitionism) which have more active involvement, as revealed in a study by Thomas AG et al 2021. Yet, the involvement of recordings are “more intrusive on privacy than mere observation”, as stated in a court ruling in Canada, which could make such incidents even more traumatic to the victims. This could suggest that education on gender issues and consent (in both the areas of sex crimes and taking/sharing images or videos of others) could play a role in preventing cases of voyeurism in society.

Other tendencies observed more in voyeurs include: individuals having good relationships with their parents but the parents themselves having poor relationships between themselves (Gebhard et al 1965), with parents showing a lack of emotional expression, emotional distance, undemonstrativeness and lack of warmth (Rubins, 1969); coming from broken homes or being less likely to have sisters (Carnes 2001); higher incidence of separation from parents in childhood and sexual abuse before the age 18 (Långström and Seto 2006); and having higher rates of unusual fantasies, including bestiality and sadomasochism (Smith 1976). It has also been noted that problematic sexual behaviours often began in adolescence with more than 50% reporting voyeuristic desires before the age of 15 (Kaplan & Krueger, 1997; Mathis, 1972).

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Combating Voyeurism

Policy changes have been made to better protect victims of voyeurism. Previously, voyeuristic crimes were covered under Section 509 ‘Insulting the Modesty of a Woman’ of the Penal Code and Section 29 and 30 of the Films Act. However, the drawbacks of these provisions were that only obscene films in a person’s possession were considered, and victims were required to be women. These were changed with the addition of Section 377BB of the Penal Code with effect from 1 January 2020, which now covers the observation and/or recording (with any sort of equipment) of obscene contents, and is gender-neutral towards victims.

While there are many ways to reduce the incidence of voyeuristic crimes, one of the most important things is for victims to speak up and report the crimes to the police. This could deter future offenders from committing such crimes, raise awareness of voyeurism, and empower other victims to come forward. A well-known example would be that of Monica Baey, who spoke up about what had happened to her and brought to light the issue of voyeurism, the initially modest punishment to the offender, and the psychological effects she had experienced due to the incident. While an ideal situation would be for victims to speak up, under-reporting still occurs due to the fear of not being believed, according to the Ipsos 2019 gender equality and sexual harassment survey. This is further substantiated by the revelation that 41% of all Singaporeans agree or strongly agree that false accusations of sexual harassment are a bigger problem in our society than unreported acts of sexual harassment, despite global reports that the incidences of false reporting is around just 2%.

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In conclusion, while cases of voyeurism have been on the rise in recent years – perhaps due to technology being a contributing factor – awareness of it has also increased throughout the years. However, awareness alone is insufficient for prevention, and much more needs to be done to put a stop to cases of voyeurism. While promoting better understanding of its causes and legal and/or policy interventions by the government can help, society as a whole would need to play a part a well.

*The views and opinions expressed in this article do not constitute legal advice and solely belong to the author and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the NUS Criminal Justice Club or its affiliates.


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Author’s biography

Celine Cheow is a recent graduate from NUS Pharmacy. Besides toxicology, she is also interested in forensic psychology and psychiatry as well.



CJC-F Announcements, CJC-F Insights, CJC-F Understanding Forensics, CLD Forensics, Uncategorized

Doping, which refers to the illegal use of substances to enhance sporting performance, is a perennial concern in competitive sports. Interestingly, Singapore has had a number of doping cases over the years. For instance, in 2012, seven out of eight athletes tested positive for having consumed prohibited substances during the Singapore National Bodybuilding and Physique Sports Championship.

There are various substances that are abused by sportsmen, with some being more commonly used than others. To this end, the World Anti-Doping Agency (“WADA”) has promulgated the 2022 WADA Prohibited List, which contains ten categories of banned substances which may (1) be prohibited in-competition or at all times, and (2) be specified or unspecified. 


This article will elaborate on four types of commonly abused substances in sports, namely: 

  1. anabolic steroids; 
  2. supplements; 
  3. erythropoietins (“EPO”); 
  4. high growth hormone (“HGH”). 


1) Anabolic steroids 

Anabolic steroids and diuretics are the most commonly abused substances. So what exactly are they, and why do athletes consume them? 


Anabolic steroids are a special type of steroid that stimulates muscle growth, and they are typically consumed by athletes who need to quickly build muscle or speed up recovery from injuries. Examples of athletes who have been known to consume such steroids are professional body-builders and weightlifters. 


Anabolic steroids imitate the properties of naturally occurring hormones such as testosterone, given their similar chemical composition. This means that the steroid can activate the body’s testosterone receptors to induce similar or even stronger effects brought about by natural testosterone. One of the key effects testosterone has is to increase muscle mass and boost energy, making this substance an attractive one for athletes who need to build bodies faster in preparation for competitions. 


While one of the key reasons behind prohibiting the consumption of these substances is to ensure a level playing field for everyone in competitions, it is also imperative to understand the potential harm that consumption can bring to athletes. Regular consumption of anabolic steroids has been known to increase the risk of hypertension, hyperglycemia and dyslipidemia amongst the athletes who imbibe them. Athletes may also suffer from acne, alopecia and even blood clots which increases stroke risk. 


High testosterone levels, on the other hand, are linked to psychiatric complications like psychosis and mood disorders. This explains why doctors avoid prescribing steroids when a patient has psychiatric symptoms as the patient may develop even more severe conditions. One such condition is systemic lupus erythematosus, which is a disease that causes the immune system to attack the body’s tissues and results in tissue damage in the patient’s body.


2) Supplements

Some supplements are considered as prohibited substances under the 2022 WADA Prohibited List. The term “supplements” covers a broad category of products, including but not limited to sports foods (protein powders/drinks, energy bars, sports drinks, etc), medical supplements (vitamins, probiotics, minerals, etc), ergogenic substances (caffeine, creatinine, bicarbonate, beta-analine or nitrate), natural products (herbs, roots, etc), weight loss supplements and anabolic supplements.


Dietary supplements may also be prohibited substances – these include stimulants such as ephedrine, methylhexanamine, sibutramine (an appetite suppressant that was banned in Singapore since 2010 due to its effect of increasing risks of heart attacks) and 1,3-dimethylamylamine (DMAA). Some of these supplements may also contain other prohibited substances such as anabolic steroids and clenbuterol (a beta-2 agonist approved for asthma in some countries which also has anabolic and fat-burning properties at higher doses).


What is especially tricky about this particular class of prohibited substances is that athletes often consume these supplements not knowing that it is prohibited. In a report on elite university-level athletes, it was found that one third of the athletes had little to no knowledge of the supplement(s) that they were taking. Common reasons cited included the assumption of safety due to the wide availability of the supplements, as well as trust in the people who introduced such supplements to them (such as family members or their coaches). 


This was unfortunately what happened in a case involving a local para-athlete. Khairi Bin Ishak was tested positive for methandienone (an anabolic steroid) during a routine out-of-competition test. According to him, he had purchased a protein isolate product from a Facebook page of a Malaysia-based company, not knowing that it contained substances which were prohibited. However, his lack of knowledge is not a defence for having violated an anti-doping rule. This is because anti-doping rules are strict liability in nature, and they apply regardless of whether the doping occurred intentionally or unintentionally – as long as someone is found with prohibited substances and/or at least one prohibited substance is found in a supplement, it is a violation. Consequently, the positive result of methandienone alone led to Khairi Bin Ishak being disqualified from the 2018 Commonwealth Games. 


This case serves as a cautionary tale for athletes to be aware of the ingredients contained in their supplements. Manufacturers’ assurances may not be reliable, and athletes should always check their supplements with qualified professionals to ensure that they do not contain prohibited substances. Inadvertent doping can happen, so always err on the side of caution!


3) Erythropoietins

The third most commonly abused substance used by athletes is erythropoietins. EPOs are erythropoietin receptor agonists, which include darbepoetin and other EPO mimetic agents. EPOs allow more oxygen to be transported to muscle cells, thus helping athletes increase their endurance in competitive sports.


Synthetic EPO substances have structures that are different from natural EPOs produced in the body. Nevertheless, like endogenous EPO, they stimulate the production of red blood cells (“RBC”) in the bone marrow by stimulating erythroid progenitor cells, which in turn increases erythropoiesis (the production of RBCs) and ultimately regulates the concentration of RBC and haemoglobin in the blood through a negative feedback cycle. RBCs are responsible for the transport of oxygen throughout the body, so having a higher RBC count is useful as it can increase the athletes’ stamina. EPO also helps to maintain the RBCs and protects them from injury or being destroyed. 


However, abuse of EPO will have a negative effect on the body. Short-term effects include weight loss, insomnia, and headaches or dizziness, but there are long-term effects as well. This is because EPO increases RBC count, such that long-term use in healthy adults can increase the risk of stroke, heart attacks and blood clots in the lungs. In addition, EPO abuse may also increase blood pressure which may damage organs such as the heart and kidneys.  


The use of EPO by athletes is less common in Asian countries and is largely used only in endurance bearing sports such as cycling. The most well-known case of EPO doping is that of Lance Armstrong, who won six Tour De France competitions before being stripped of all his titles in 2012, after he admitted to using EPO to boost his performance. Interestingly, Lance Armstrong had never failed a single doping test in his entire career which led many to think that the anti-doping efforts by the International Olympic Committee are easily manipulated. 


4) Human Growth Hormone

Human growth hormone, as its name suggests, is a growth hormone that is associated with growth function. HGH is a peptide (small protein) hormone naturally produced by the pituitary gland, and is involved in many crucial physiological processes such as stimulating growth of bone and collagen, facilitating turnover of muscle and regulating fat and carbohydrate metabolism. 


It is not difficult to see how useful synthetic HGH can be when applied to treat growth disorders and deficiency-state diseases such as Turner syndrome, chronic renal insufficiency and short stature homeobox-containing gene (SHOX) deficiency. HGH is also highly efficient in increasing muscle mass and power and regulating metabolic (fat and carbohydrate) processes. In the context of doping, HGH is particularly attractive because of its efficiency, the absence of severe side effects if well-dosed and difficulty of detection. 

However, if not well-dosed, HGH may cause severe conditions such as nerve damage, swelling and high cholesterol levels. Diabetes and tumour risks also increase with HGH usage. Further, as HGH is administered via injection so as to prevent degradation by the gastrointestinal tract, there is a risk of cross-infection if syringes are non-sterile or contaminated, leading to conditions such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. 


What is interesting about HGH is the difficulty of detecting the substance. This is because these growth hormones typically have a very short half-life in blood and low concentration in urine. Furthermore, since synthetic HGH is nearly identical to HGH produced naturally by the human body, it is also difficult to differentiate the two. Successful detection of HGH can be achieved through blood tests. 


Like EPO, this substance is not commonly abused in Singapore or Asian countries. It is more commonly found to be abused in Western countries, where endurance sports such as cycling and running are more popular and prominent.



It is hoped that this article has helped to shed some light on the four most commonly abused substances in sports.

Elite level athletes must always keep in mind that doping is a strict liability offence, which means that ignorance cannot be pleaded as a defence should their sample be found with a banned substance. Thus, athletes should always stay informed about the list of banned or prohibited substances to ensure that they have not unwittingly breached the WADA Code, so as to prevent any unfortunate accidents which may lead to possible sanctions.

*The views and opinions expressed in this article do not constitute legal advice and solely belong to the author and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the NUS Criminal Justice Club or its affiliates.


Fredrik Lauritzen (2022). Dietary Supplements as a Major Cause of Anti-doping Rule Violations. Front. Sports Act. Living, Sec. Anti-doping Sciences

Sport Singapore. Supplements. Government of Singapore. Last accessed on 25 October 2022 from:

Geyer, H., Mareck-Engelke, U., Reinhart, U., Thevis, M., and Schänzer, W. (2000). Positive doping cases with norandrosterone after application of contaminated nutritional supplements. Dtsch. Z. Sportmed. 51, 378–382.

Martínez-Sanz JM, Sospedra I, Ortiz CM, Baladía E, Gil-Izquierdo A, Ortiz-Moncada R. Intended or Unintended Doping? A Review of the Presence of Doping Substances in Dietary Supplements Used in Sports. Nutrients. 2017 Oct 4;9(10):1093. doi: 10.3390/nu9101093. PMID: 28976928; PMCID: PMC5691710.

Prather ID, Brown DE, North P, Wilson JR. Clenbuterol: a substitute for anabolic steroids? Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1995 Aug;27(8):1118-21. PMID: 7476054.

Kozhuharov VR, Ivanov K, Ivanova S. Dietary Supplements as Source of Unintentional Doping. Biomed Res Int. 2022 Apr 22;2022:8387271. doi: 10.1155/2022/8387271. PMID: 35496041; PMCID: PMC9054437.

Health Direct. Human growth hormone. Government of Australia. Last accessed on 25 October 2022 from:

Saugy M et al (2006). Human growth hormone doping in sport. Br J Sports Med, 40(Suppl 1): i35–i39. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.2006.027573

National Institute of Drug Abuse (February 2018). Steroids and Other Appearance and Performance Enhancing Drugs (APEDs) Research Report. Last accessed on 25 October 2022 from:

NHS (13 April 2022). Anabolic Steroid Misuse: Instroduction. Last accessed on 25 October 2022 from:

National Institute of Drug Abuse (February 2018). Steroids and Other Appearance and Performance Enhancing Drugs (APEDs) Research Report

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Suresh S, Rajvanshi PK, and Noguchi CT (2020). The Many Facets of Erythropoietin Physiologic and Metabolic Response. Front. Physiol., Sec. Red Blood Cell Physiology.

Kien Vinh Trinh, Dion Diep, Kevin Jia Qi Chen, Le Huang, and Oleksiy Gulenko (2020). Effect of erythropoietin on athletic performance: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ Open Sport Exerc Med. 2020; 6(1): e000716. doi: 10.1136/bmjsem-2019-000716

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Tian HH, Ong WS, Tan CL (2009). Nutritional supplement use among

university athletes in Singapore. Singapore Medical Journal, 50(2):165-172.


Authors’ Biographies

Javan Seow is a 4th Year Undergraduate at the National University of Singapore. He is also currently doing his final year project with the NUS Forensic Science Laboratory. He aspires to join the Singapore Police Force after he graduates. 

Celine Cheow is a recent graduate from NUS Pharmacy. As a project manager of the forensic toxicology team in CJC-F in AY21/22, she guides the team with her knowledge of drugs, and edits articles relating to forensic toxicology. 

Wong Wai Xin is a 3rd Year Undergraduate from NUS Chemistry. She is interested in practical applications of Chemistry in everyday life, and aspires to join the Ministry of Education as a teacher after graduation. 

Zaher Wahab (“Zee”) is a Sophomore at the SUSS School of Law and is also a Doping Control Officer with Anti-Doping Singapore. He looks forward to practising Criminal Law & Sports Law when called to the Bar. Currently, Zee serves as President of the Singapore Chapter of the Asian Law Students Association and strives for greater interaction and collaboration among students from the 3 Law Schools. This is his second published article on Anti-Doping & Sports Law.

CJC-F Announcements, CJC-F Events, CJC-F News, CLD Forensics

After much anticipation, CJC-F held its first in-person Welcome Event on 19th September 2022. It was a very exciting time as both previous and new members alike were able to meet their club mates, get to know each other, and embark on this shared journey of exploring our interest in forensic science together.


CJC-F History, Goal and Project Hierarchy

The event began with a detailed explanation of the history and journey of CJC-F given by our student Director Alyssa Phua and Vice Director Ellione Chow.

It was truly spectacular to hear from them how CJC-F began as a single event under the umbrella of the Criminal Justice Club, and grew rapidly over the past 2 years to a well-established interest group with 39 published research articles and 4 highly publicized external events. Next, members discussed future goals of the club as well as contributions that members hope to make. The sharing provided all  members with an excellent understanding of the values, mission and goals of CJC-F.


Team Lead Sharing

After this, the team leads were invited to briefly introduce their teams as well as their plans in the upcoming academic year. It was an extremely engaging sharing session with all team leads doing their best to recruit members for their teams!

Ice-Breaker Bingo

Next up was a fun game of Ice-Breaker Bingo! Members were each given a bingo sheet and had to find people who had certain funny or silly experiences, items, or characteristics to sign off on the corresponding bingo boxes. These included having filmed a TikTok in public, being able to touch your tongue to your nose or having slept in Prof Stella’s class – which, for some reason, was a box that no one would sign! 😉

While the experience of 25 people frantically going around the room trying to obtain signatures was a chaotic one indeed, the ice-breaker was ultimately a resounding success, as members ended up getting to know one another better and on a deeper level.

Mass Game – Clue Finding

After the Ice-Breaker Bingo was a clue-finding mass game. A crime scenario was introduced (hypothetical, of course!). Then, members were divided into smaller teams and tasked with finding clue envelopes that were hidden on the 4th and 5th floors of the building in 20 minutes. Each of the envelopes contained either evidence, testimony, or action cards. Evidence and testimony cards could be used to reconstruct the crime, while action cards could be used to steal, exchange, or bomb other teams’ clues.

Once the rules were explained, an action-filled 20 minutes ensued, in which members put on their detective hats, ran around, and even accidentally got locked in a stairwell.

Once members gathered back in the room, they were given 10 minutes to discuss and come up with their interpretations of the crime as well as play any action cards obtained to gain more information. Every team was then given the chance to put forward their version of the crime.

The entire game was immensely entertaining and drew plenty of smiles and laughter. However, it also taught members the importance of evidence and the influence of available context on evidence. It was fascinating to watch the same pieces of evidence being interpreted differently based on the information available to the team.


Masterclass in Forensic Science and Legal Systems

Last up on the agenda was the long-awaited masterclasses in forensic science and the legal system. Zheng Yen Phua, who is currently a doctoral researcher working as a teaching assistant in the forensic science program at NUS, took the stage for the forensic science portion of the class. He led members through multiple topics that were integral to forensic science such as blood spatter analysis, DNA profiling through STRs (short tandem repeats), fingerprinting, and forensic medicine. The forensic science masterclass ended with the examination of the real-life Stirling Road Murder case and the demonstration of how forensic evidence was integral to the conviction of the killer.

Finally, the event was concluded with Alyssa presenting the final masterclass on a brief introduction to Singapore’s criminal legal system.

This sharing session was incredibly insightful for the non-law students in particular, who got a glimpse into the basics of the two legal traditions, the hierarchy of courts in Singapore’s legal system and the trial process. Alyssa also explained the difference in the standard of proof for the defense and prosecution in a criminal trial – a concept that the author found particularly thought-provoking – which is based on the premise of “innocent until proven guilty”.



In short, the entire event was a truly enjoyable and informative way to spend our Monday afternoon before the struggles of recess week!

*The views and opinions expressed in this article do not constitute legal advice and solely belong to the author and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the NUS Criminal Justice Club or its affiliates.

Authors’ Biography

  • Avanti Balaji (Year 2 Psychology Major)

Avanti Balaji is a second-year NUS undergraduate current majoring in psychology. Given her deep interest in the roles and real-life applications of psychology, Avanti joined the CJC-F to gain more exposure and learn about the fields of law, forensics, and their relation to psychology. In pursuit of this interest, she also intends to minor in forensic science. She is currently part of the Forensic Science Conference planning committee as well as a member of the team focusing on forensic psychology.


CJC-F Announcements, CJC-F Insights, CLD Forensics
Olympian. World record holder. First male swimmer to earn Olympic and World Championship gold medals for every freestyle distance from 200 to 1500 metres and dubbed the “greatest freestyle swimmer of all time” by NBC Sports. These facts clearly point to an athlete of exemplary talent and tenacity; a true “shark” in the pool.

But who is he? He is none other than Sun Yang, the same Chinese athlete who was issued a reprimand in 2020 and sanctioned by the world swimming body, FINA, for (a) refusing to sign paperwork required in the doping control process and (b) refusing to submit samples of his blood as required by an Anti-Doping Organisation (ADO). But which anti-doping rules did Sun Yang violate? Isn’t doping about the consumption of prohibited substances to boost an athlete’s performance?

This article seeks to clarify:
  1. What anti-doping rules are;
  2. Who sets them;
  3. What constitutes doping in sports; and
  4. How urine and/or blood samples are collected by an ADO.

What are anti-doping rules and who set them?
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is a foundation initiated by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1999 to promote, coordinate and monitor the fight against the use of drugs in sports. In line with the purpose of an anti-doping programme – which is “to protect the athlete’s fundamental right to participate in doping-free sport and thus promote health, fairness and equality for athletes worldwide” – the WADA created the World Anti-Doping Code (WADC), which is akin to a global rule-book for administering the anti-doping movement.

The WADC prescribes a set of punishments which applies to every athlete who flouts any of the 11 anti-doping rules or Anti-Doping Rule Violations (ADRVs), as they are known in the doping circles. Since WADA’s primary role is to develop, harmonise and coordinate anti-doping rules and policies across all sports and countries, this means that the same set of punishments apply to all atheletes worldwide. All recognised National Olympic Committees and International Federations under the IOC’s ambit are signatories to the WADC.
What constitutes doping?
ADRVs occur when an athlete or athlete support personnel (e.g. coach/trainer/team doctor) commits a doping offence when his/her urine or blood sample returns from the laboratory with an Adverse Analytical Finding. Should he/she be found guilty, there will be consequences or sanctions to that person.
There are 11 ADRVs in total.

It is important to note that the principle of strict liability applies to all anti-doping violations. This means that it is not necessary for the athlete to have intended to use the substance for him/her to be found guilty. Regardless of whether there was truly an intention to cheat or not, the athlete will be held responsible for any prohibited substance which is found in their body.

However, the degree of fault will be taken into account when determining the punishment the athlete will receive. An athlete may typically receive a period of ineligibility from competing as the punishment and the period of ineligibility could vary depending on the degree of fault. For instance, if the athlete is found to bear no fault or negligence, there could very well be no period of ineligibility for the athlete. If found to bear no significant fault or negligence, they could be rendered ineligible to compete for up to 2 years.
How are urine and/or blood samples collected by an ADO?
Every in-competition or out-of-competition testing begins with the provision of a urine and/or blood sample by the athlete. This is done under the strict supervision of a Doping Control Officer (DCO), who is of the same gender as the athlete.

During the process of testing, the athlete will urinate into the sample collection vessel right in front of the DCO so that the DCO has a clear view that the urine comes from the body of the athlete and not from any other source. The athlete will take the necessary steps to remove any clothing which may impede the line of sight of the DCO.

Similarly, for blood samples, the athlete typically rolls up his/her sleeves so that the instruments used will not be impeded. For this reason, DCOs work in pairs so that the other DCO (known as the Lead DCO or supervising officer) can act as witness to the entire process and record any anomalies in the process.

There is only 1 standard testing regime used to collect/analyse an athlete’s urine sample and the steps are as follows:
  1. Athlete selection – An athlete may be selected for testing at any time and place (e.g. whilst at home/ at the office/at his training venue or at the competition venue)
  2. Notification – A Doping Control Officer (DCO) will notify the athlete of his/her selection and reads them their rights and responsibilities. The DCO will then follow the athlete closely, to wherever he/she goes (warm down / medal ceremony / press conference / medical treatment etc).
  3. Reporting to Doping Control Room (DCR) – The athlete should report to the DCR as soon as he discharges his other responsibilities, as above.
  4. Sample collection equipment – The athlete will be given a minimum of 3 sealed sample collection vessels and kits to choose from. If he/she is unhappy with the chosen vessel or kit, he/she may request another to his/her satisfaction.
  5. Provision of sample – The athlete will then provide a urine sample under direct observation of a DCO of the same gender.
  6. Sample requirements – A minimum of 90ml of urine is required for urine samples. If the sample that is provided is not 90ml, the athlete may be asked to wait 1 hour before providing an additional sample. This additional sample will then be mixed with the earlier sample.
  7. The athlete will split the urine sample into Bottle A (minimum 60ml) and Bottle B (minimum 30ml).
  8. The athlete will then seal the bottles according to DCO’s instructions.
  9. The DCO will then measure the specific gravity of the sample to ensure that it is not too diluted to be analysed by the WADA accredited laboratory. The minimum is 1.005.
  10. The athlete will be asked to check and confirm that the information listed on the Doping Control Form is correct. This includes but not limited to his/her contact details, the medications / supplements / blood transfusion that he has had in the last 7 days.
  11. The urine samples will then be sent to WADA accredited laboratories for analysis.

If the athlete is found to have a prohibited substance in his sample, he/she will be invited to the testing laboratory where his/her sample from Bottle B will be opened in his/her presence and analysed. If the analysis from his/her Bottle B sample confirms the initial Adverse Analytical Finding (usually it does since it is from the same sample provided by the athlete on that particular day/time), the case will then be referred to the next stage, which is referred to as Results Management.

The athlete in question will then likely appear before a Disciplinary Hearing convened by the ADO and his/her National Sports Association (NSA). With possible assistance from his/her counsel, the athlete will now need to prove on a balance of probabilities that it is possible and plausible (i.e not a mere speculation) that there could have been an act of sabotage, manipulation, contamination, pollution or accidental use and that he/she did not knowingly commit the ADRV. The athlete has the option of choosing whether he/she would like to be legally represented.

Where possible, the athlete could list the possible source of the prohibited substance (e.g. adulterated meat) or even highlight any departure from the international standards that could possibly have contributed to the AAF.

Following which, the athlete may reach an agreement to conclude the case IF he proves his case successfully. There are 2 types of agreements – the results management agreement and the case resolution agreement:

If the athlete in question wishes to contest the charges, the case will proceed to the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS), as wase the case for Sun Yang.

What is CAS?  
CAS is an institution independent of any sports organisation which provides for services in order to facilitate the settlement of sports-related disputes through arbitration or mediation by means of procedural rules adapted to the specific needs of the sports world.

Created in 1984 and located in Lausanne, Switzerland, CAS has 300 arbitrators from 87 countries, chosen for their specialist knowledge in arbitration and sports law.

It should be noted that the award pronounced by CAS is final and binding on parties. It is enforced in accordance with the New York Convention which has more than 125 signatories.

What actually happened in Sun Yang’s case?
It started out like any other routine Out-Of-Competition Test (OOCT). Somewhere during the sample collection, Sun Yang noticed that one of the members of the Anti-Doping team was taking pictures of him. He immediately asked for the DCO’s Accreditation Card, to ascertain his identity but was rebuffed. This led Sun Yang to suspect that the testing personnel did not possess proper credentials and thus, his refusal to cooperate further. In anger, Sun Yang also smashed the vials containing samples of his blood which had been taken earlier.

As the test was authorised by the International Swimming body, FINA, a tribunal was convened to discuss the manner in which the sample collection had taken place. It concluded with the finding that “any blood sample collected without proper authorisation cannot be considered a sample and therefore, there was no anti-doping rule violated.”

However, WADA did not agree with FINA’s decision and appealed to CAS. A panel of three arbitrators then unanimously found Sun Yang guilty of refusing to cooperate with the DCO and of refusing to provide a sample. Following this, Sun Yang was issued an 8 year ban from swimming.

However, following accusations that Sun Yang’s testimony was lost in translation during the 2019 trial, CAS convened a new panel of arbitrators who then handed a 4 year 3 month ban to Sun Yang thereby ruling him out of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and possibly ending his swimming career.

But… what happened to Joseph Schooling in August 2022?
On 30th August 2022, news broke that 2016 Olympic Gold medallist and national swimmer, Joseph Isaac Schooling confessed to smoking cannabis during an overseas training stint in preparation for the 31st South-East Asian Games.

Whilst there was a huge public uproar about Schooling’s smoking of cannabis in anti-drug Singapore, the question remains: did Joseph commit an ADRV?

The simple answer is no as there was no mention of any AAF from the SEA Games swimming competition. This means that Joseph was either not tested during the Games (the Games organisers have neither confirmed nor denied this) or he was tested and his test(s) came back negative.

Either way, this means that he was never caught with a prohibited substance (cannabis) in his urine during any in-competition testing conducted recently and thus, does not face any ban or sanction from competition. In fact, the news of his smoking of cannabis only broke because he made a confession to the Central Narcotics Bureau just before submitting to a random urine test under CNB’s watchful eyes. The test came back negative for all known prohibited drugs, including cannabis.                

Whilst this confession may be evidence of a breach of Article 2.2 of the WADA Code i.e. the “use” of a prohibited substance, it is only applicable if and only if there was evidence that the “use” occurred in-competition during the SEA Games.

One must bear in mind that cannabis is indeed a prohibited substance as per WADA’s prohibited list but only in-competition. This means that if Schooling had smoked cannabis a couple of days prior to any anti-doping test during the Games, his sample would have definitely been flagged as AAF as the single usage of cannabis can be detected up to 3 days after one’s last use. Therefore, it is this author’s firm belief that Schooling only smoked cannabis during the R & R period before his return to Singapore, after competing in the SEA Games.

His NSA, the Singapore Swimming Association and the Singapore National Olympic Council are expected to reprimand him for conduct unbecoming of an elite athlete and sports icon. But, to reiterate, it is highly unlikely that he will be facing a ban from competition since none of his urine samples from in-competition testing contained prohibited substances.

However, as Schooling is currently a conscript with the Singapore Armed Forces (“SAF”), he will be dealt with in accordance with Military Law. From recent news reports, we learn that Schooling will be subjected to 6 months of supervised urine tests and will no longer be allowed to take leave from his military duties to compete in overseas competitions.

Hence, whilst Schooling faces no immediate anti-doping bans from swimming competitions, it seems unlikely that Schooling will feature in 2023’s Asian Games in Hangzhou, China and the 32nd SEA Games in Phnom Penh, Cambodia since the SAF ban will prevent him from taking leave from military duties to compete in future overseas competitions thereby pushing the pause button on his swimming career.

The anti-doping movement exists to keep sports on a level playing field for all athletes. Hence, the strict enforcement and the constant and regular testing of athletes in and out of competition keeps elite sports competitive but fair. Nevertheless, athletes should always be aware of their rights and responsibilities as elite athletes and be guided by the strict liability rule that governs the anti-doping movement for a small mis-step can spell the end of their sporting careers.

*The views and opinions expressed in this article do not constitute legal advice and solely belong to the author and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the NUS Criminal Justice Club or its affiliates.

Authors’ Biographies
Zaher Bin Wahab (“Zee”) is a Sophomore at the SUSS School of Law and also serves as a Doping Control Officer with Anti-Doping Singapore. He looks forward to practising Community Law (Criminal, Family and Sports Law) when called to the Bar. Concurrently, serves as President of the Asian Law Students Association S’pore (ALSA SG) and strives for greater interaction and collaboration between students from the 3 Law Schools in Singapore. This is his first published article.

Alyssa Phua is a fourth year NUS undergraduate pursuing her double degree in Law and Business. As a strong believer in the need to promote greater appreciation of forensic evidence, she founded CJC Forensics (CJC-F) in 2020. As the director of CJC-F, she directs, coordinates and oversees all activities, events and projects.

Contingency Fee Arrangements are payment arrangements, whereby the legal fees payable to a lawyer by a client is determined by the outcome of the case’s proceedings. Under these arrangements, it is possible for a lawyer to arrange to be paid an agreed percentage of the client’s recovery and is paid nothing if the action is unsuccessful. The high cost of legal proceedings often results in many people being unable to bring their cases to court, simply because they cannot afford to do so. Article 7 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights states that “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.” These arrangements offer a practical avenue for lower income individuals to stand on an equal platform as the state, of proper legal representation, and have the same access to justice when faced with a criminal charge. Unfortunately, this is illegal.

The history of contingency fee arrangements can be traced to the case of Re Trepca Mines (No 2) [1962] 3 WLR 955. Then, Lord Denning held that “The reason why the common law condemns champerty is because of the abuses to which it may give rise. The common law fears that the champertous maintainer might be tempted, for his own personal gain, to inflame the damages, to suppress evidence, or even to suborn witnesses. These fears may be exaggerated; but, be that so or not, the law for centuries has declared champerty to be unlawful, and we cannot do otherwise than enforce the law, and I may observe that it has received statutory support, in the case of solicitors, in section 65 of the Solicitors Act, 1957.”

The concern here is that lawyers, having arranged to have their legal fees determined by the , will be tempted to cross legal and ethical lines for their own profit. This stance was written into Singapore’s statute, in the Legal Professions Act, where Section 18 of the Legal Profession Rules states that

  1. A legal practitioner or law practice must not enter into any negotiations with a client of the legal practitioner or law practice —

(a) for an interest in the subject matter of litigation or of any other contentious proceedings; or

(b) except to the extent permitted by any applicable scale of costs, for remuneration proportionate to the amount which may be recovered by the client in the proceedings.

Under this statute, lawyers can be charged if they arrange for any sort of payment structure with a client that allows them a financial stake in the outcome of the proceedings. This has remained a consistent stance in the Singapore Courts, where just this February the Law Society filed an action against one of its members for entering a contingency fee arrangement with his client.

Faced with the illegality of contingency fee arrangements, accused persons facing criminal charges who cannot afford legal representation can only turn to the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme.

To qualify for legal aid under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme in Singapore, one must first pass the Means Test, a test which determines if an individual is in sufficient financial need to deserve legal aid. In order to pass this test, one must have a disposable income of not more than $10,000 per annum and a disposable capital of not more than $10,000. In 2013, only 17% of the population met this criterion, leaving 1 in 6 Singaporeans and PRs outside the coverage of the Scheme. Under the initial scheme, Only 431 people were given help in 2014 and 427 in 2013.

There have been efforts by Singapore’s Parliament to address this, and with the passing of the Legal Aid and Advice Act in 2013, the financial threshold that needed to be met was lowered under the enhanced Legal Aid scheme. The latest statistics from the Ministry of Law show that 2,433 people were helped under the enhanced scheme last year – more than five times the people who received help in 2014. While this shows good progress, the new scheme only covers 25% of the country’s population.

Steps toward the legalisation of contingency fee arrangements have already been taken in other countries. With the passing of the Access to Justice Act 1999 in the UK, the courts from which we took the basis of the statute in the first place have already moved to allow for such arrangements, albeit not in the context of criminal proceedings.  It has also been already partially legalised in Singapore under the Civil Law (Amendment) Act 2016, where third party funders of case proceedings are allowed, provided the solicitor does not directly gain any financial benefit.

The main issue that concerns the legalisation of such fees is that of legal ethics, where lawyers might abuse the system, crossing moral lines for the sake of economic gain. However, is there not a line already drawn with the current system of billable hours, where lawyers are “rewarded” for slow, inefficient work. Making the ethical decision for professional conduct might extend in a similar manner to lawyers, should the contingency fee payment be legalised in Singapore. If Singapore’s Courts and Parliaments find a way to reconcile the ethical and legal considerations of this issue, Singapore could take a big step toward having complete access to justice for its citizens.

Written in 2018 by Darryl Lau

*The views and opinions expressed in this article do not constitute legal advice and solely belong to the author and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the NUS Criminal Justice Club or its affiliates.


A money mule is a person who receives and transfers money, often of criminal source1. They could be either stolen or fraudulently obtained. He or she will then be asked to deliver money to another person, either in cash or by electronic means. Most offenders are very much a victim of their own crime as National Crime Prevention Council (“NCPC”) noted in a press release that most of these offenders were conned into doing so. For instance, some individuals may have innocently trusted conmen they have befriended online while some may be in for a “quick cash”. After trust has been established, these scammers would proceed to transfer the money to these victims’ personal accounts before asking the victims to transfer the money to another account. This is often done by much larger syndicates to facilitate money-laundering. The same NCPC press release also reported that this is a growing trend with 93 such cases2 in 2012 and an increase to 133 cases in the first nine months of 2013 alone. Although there is no information concerning the number of individuals prosecuted, there is no dearth of cases either. This article seeks to clarify the relevant legislation and the potential offences a money mule is liable for, as well as the rationale behind the harsh sentencing guidelines.

We first take a look at a recent case of Public Prosecutor v Razali Bin Mohamed Idris3 (“Razali”). It aptly demonstrates how a common individual can be jailed for handling money for an online acquaintance. The accused, Razali Bin Mohamed Idris was a 56-year-old Singaporean. He befriended with “Rose” through the internet. Razali gave Rose his bank account number, and agreed to help Rose by receiving a sum of money into his bank account. On 11 September 2013, a sum of S$171,091.25 was transferred into his account. It is not disputed that this money had been obtained fraudulently. On the instructions of Rose, he made transfers of varying amounts to company and individual he did not know. It was added that he had never received such a large sum before. He was charged for one count of dishonestly receiving stolen property under s 411(1) of the Penal Code (“PC”) and four count removing from jurisdiction the benefits from criminal conduct, under the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act (“CDSA”). He was guilty of all charges. We now examine the legislation for each charges.

As per Razali, a money mule can be liable for dishonestly receiving stolen goods under section 411  of the Penal Code (“PC”). This provision can be divided into the physical and mental element. In the physical one, there is a requirement to “receive or retain stolen property”. The general inquiry is whether the accused was in possession of the stolen property. It is noted that the word “retain” ensures that the accused had a sufficient level of conviction to hold on to the stolen property. It is also easier in practice to prove retention than mere receipt4. Section 410 also defines “stolen property”. The property must have been a subject of one of the nominated offences such as theft, extortion and criminal breach of trust. It is also not necessary for it to be a physical property which is why money mules can be guilty of this section 411. Subsection (2) of section 411 denotes that the expression “stolen property” includes any property that has been exchanged for or converted into. This includes proceeds from sales of the stolen property5.

In most cases, the element of dispute for section 411 is the mental element. The prosecution must prove two requirements of the mental element — (i) dishonesty and (ii) knowing or having reason to believe that the property was stolen. In Razali, the issue before the court was whether the defendant had “reason to believe” if the property was indeed stolen. The district judge applied the legal test of “reason to believe” set out in Ow Yew Beng v PP6 (“Ow Yew Beng”). The test is an objective one: whether a reasonable person, in the position of the defendant (including his knowledge and experience), would have thought it probable that the property he retained was stolen property. The court ruled that the defendant in Razali had reason to believe to believe that the money he received was stolen on several basis. The court found “the the defendant was not naïve and gullible, but reasonably intelligent and street-smart” to discern if the property was stolen. It was also found that the circumstances under which the large amount of funds that had been transferred into the defendant’s account should be suspicious for the defendant, insomuch that there is a reason to believe that the money was stolen. Unlike the “reason to believe” limb, the knowledge limb under element (ii) is a subjective enquiry which could be harder to prove in practice.  Knowledge denotes awareness of certain facts with absolute conviction or certainty as to their existence. It can be said that a high degree of conviction is necessary to establish knowledge7

Where the penal code punishes money mule for receiving money, the CDSA is the primary legislation for targeting subsequent transfers of funds. In the CDSA, section 46 deals with benefits from drug dealing while section 47 deals with benefits stemming from criminal conduct. For example, under section 47(2) any person who:

  • knowing or having reasonable grounds to believe that:
  • any property (in whole or in part, directly or indirectly) represents, another person’s benefits from criminal conduct;
  • conceals or disguises that property; or
  • converts or transfers that property or removes it from Singapore.

This subsection specifically targets a person handling the benefit from a criminal conduct (rather than from a drug dealing) on behalf of another person (rather than his personal benefit). The first two element makes up the mental aspect of the offence while the last two elements constitute the physical element of money mule. As with section 411 of PC, the prosecution must prove that the defendant had knowledge or reason to believe that the property in question stems from another person’s criminal conduct. Although the definition of “reason to believe” cannot be found in CDSA, it is defined in the PC. A person is said to have “reason to believe” something, if he has sufficient cause to believe that thing, but not otherwise”. Indeed, the second part of element (a) of having “reason to believe” expands the scope of mere knowledge and provides for a more workable approach as it may be unrealistic to prove actual knowledge.

The second element requires the property in question to be a benefit from another person’s criminal activity. Further, this property can be in full or in part. It must be noted that this has been widely defined to capture a large array of possibilities. This can be confirmed by the bill passed in 2014, seven years after the original CDSA was passed. The said bill added section 47A to the statute8. It states as follows:—

47A.—(1)  For the purpose of proving under this Part whether the whole or any part of any property constitutes, or directly or indirectly represents, the benefits of drug dealing or the benefits from criminal conduct, it is not necessary for the prosecution to prove the particulars of any offence constituted by the drug dealing or criminal conduct.


(2)  For the purpose of proving under this Part whether a person knows or has reasonable grounds to believe that the whole or any part of any property constitutes, or directly or indirectly represents, the benefits of drug dealing or the benefits from criminal conduct —

(a)   it is sufficient for the prosecution to prove that the person knows or has reasonable grounds to believe that the whole or part of the property constitutes, or directly or indirectly represents, the benefits of an offence generally; and

(b)   it is not necessary for the prosecution to prove that the person knows or has reasonable grounds to believe that the whole or part of the property constitutes, or directly or indirectly represents, the benefits of a particular offence.


Under subsection (1), it is not necessary for the prosecution to prove the specific details or make out a specific offence from the criminal conduct. It is sufficient that the conduct has occurred. More interestingly, a similarly low threshold is set out in subsection (2). The prosecution only has to prove that the defendant knows or has reasonable grounds to believe that the property represents the benefit of an offence in general. The said offence need not be a particular offence of criminal nature or whatsoever. The requirement of proof is deliberately widen to allow offenders to be prosecuted more easily. This wide requirement is also observed in the physical element of the offence. No method of transfer is specified. In this regard, an offence for removing the the benefits of criminal conduct from the jurisdiction can easily be made out.

A person guilty of section 411 of the PC can be punished with imprisonment up till 5 years and be liable for a fine. The primary consideration for sentencing appear to be the total quantum for instance, a 10 months sentence was imposed for an amount of $97,177.869 while a higher quantum of $197,044.73 attracted a 17 months jail term10. The sentencing for section 46 and 47 of CDSA is also quantum dependent. Some of the suggested aggravating factors include the offence being pre-meditated; the offences were committed over a period of time and if a large amount was involved. Deterrence also appears to be a prime consideration when sentencing  as such offences can damage the country’s reputation as a financial hub[11]. Indeed with increasing ease of making transfer, there is a need to impose harsh sentence to deter similar offences from being committed. As technology evolves, legislation must also keep up and remain future-proof. One such development is the rise of cryptocurrency. These developments allow monies to be transferred and converted anonymously. It becomes more urgent than ever before to ensure that monetary transactions are regulated.

Written by Chee Kai Hao

*The views and opinions expressed in this article do not constitute legal advice and solely belong to the author and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the NUS Criminal Justice Club or its affiliates.

[1] Public Prosecutor v Darryl Ignatius Tan Yung Sheng [2014] SGDC 81


[3] [2017] SGDC 22

[4] YMC [15.6]

[5] Cheah Yew Fatt v PP [1960] MLJ xlvi

[6] [2003] 1 SLR(R) 536

[7] YMC [4.18]

[8] Act 21 of 2014

[9] PP v Rohinton Rustom Kakaria

[10] PP v Gee Lee Cheng [2013] SGDC 401

[11] supra 3 at [45]


With reference to the Children and Young Person’s Act (CYPA), a juvenile is someone aged 7 or above and below 16 years old.

Over the years, the number of juveniles arrested have decreased, according to statistics provided by Ministry of Home Affairs, updated as of 4 April 2017.[1] However, a Straits Times article has also reported that the police have found a soar in juvenile arrests for shop theft and possession of offensive weapons. [2]

In fact, numerous cases of youth riots and their involvements in gang fights have surfaced as more teenagers turn to violence. In Oct 2014, 4 teenage boys aged 15-19 met up at a void deck at 3am to look for foreign workers to beat up and attacked a Chinese national by punching him several times before fleeing. These boys had also previously attacked an Indian foreign worker, two weeks prior to this. The 19 year old assailant pleaded guilty and was thus sentenced to 10 days in detention. In that same month, five youths aged 16 to 22 were arrested for rioting with a deadly weapon and attacking a 21-year-old man in Woodlands. In 2010, an infamous gang fight at Downtown East broke out between rival gangs that led to the slashing and subsequent death of a 19 year old Darren Ng.[3] More recently, 9 youths aged 14-16 were arrested for rioting in Woodlands on 27 April 2017.

Experts suggest that for youths, the tendency to partake in senseless violence and brutality could be due to an amalgamation of multiple triggering factors such as stress, angst, inebriation as well as their upbringing during the formative years. Violence at home would also expectedly perpetuate violent tendencies of a child in the future. “These youths seem to be people who have anger issues and choose to take it out on people who are less likely to retaliate,” suggests Dr Brian Yeo, a consultant psychiatrist at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, according to a report made by The New Paper. [4]

While adolescents committing minor offences may not be prosecuted but sent for rehabilitation instead, the government has taken a firmer stance against youth offenders that have committed serious crimes. “While rehabilitative options are available for young offenders who are suitable, the courts have also meted out more severe punishments if the offence was a serious one, including deterrent sentences to send a strong signal that such criminal behaviour will not be condoned nor taken lightly,” says Second Minister for Home Affairs Mr Masagos Zulkifli.[5] The high certainty of arrest and firm punitive measures are crucial in deterring youth crime, so prompt and effective enforcement by agencies in tandem with strict laws will be necessary. This is reflected in the punishments meted out for the death in the 2010 Downtown East gang fights, where the youth offenders were sentenced 3 to 12 years jail and 3 to 12 strokes of caning, depending on the severity of their involvement.

For minor offences, a second chance is offered through pre-court diversionary programmes such as the Guidance Programme introduced in 1997, which targets youth aged 10 to 19 that have committed minor crimes. This rehabilitative programme lasts for about 6 months and offers a community-based support network and successful completion of the 6 months means a police warning, which prevents youth offenders from having to face the stigma of court prosecution. In fact, Channel News Asia reports that approximately 9 in 10 youths stay crime-free 3 years after completing the programme, demonstrating the effectiveness of this policy.[6]

Aside from these pre-court diversionary programmes, the Children and Young Persons Act involves multiple clauses that protect youth offenders from that the blemishes that court prosecution has on their portfolio, which is vital in the reintegration back to community. CYPA s.35 restricts the publication of information relating to proceedings involving children and young persons to maintain a modicum of privacy and keep the identity of the youth secret.[7] CYPA s.41 stipulates that “words “conviction” and “sentence” shall cease to be used in relation to children and young persons dealt with by a Youth Court”. These clauses depict the sensitivity accorded to cases involving youth offenders and considerations for the child, to ensure that they are not tattooed with an almost-permanent stigmatisation associated to a court prosecution.

Written by Ng Cai Jia Felicia

*The views and opinions expressed in this article do not constitute legal advice and solely belong to the author and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the NUS Criminal Justice Club or its affiliates.

[1] Ministry of Social and Family Development (

[2] (The Straits Times, 2017) 14.2% drop in youth arrests in 1st half of 2017, but more nabbed for shop theft and carrying weapons.

[3] (The Straits Times, 2013) Couple lost son in Downtown East gang fight in 2010, but now save his friends

[4] (Hariz Baharudin, The New Paper, 2016) More young people in Singapore turning to violence

[5] (The Straits Times, 2015) Parliament: Young offenders who commit serious crimes ‘should be severely punished’

[6] (Channel News Asia, 2016) A second chance for young offenders

[7] CYPA s.35—(1) Subject to subsection (2), no person shall —

  • (a)  publish or broadcast any information relating to any proceedings in any court or on appeal from any court that reveals the name, address or school or that includes any particulars that are calculated to lead to the identification of any child or young person concerned in the proceedings, either as being the person against or in respect of whom the proceedings are taken or as being a witness therein; or
  • (b)  publish or broadcast any picture as being or including a picture of any child or young person so concerned in any such proceedings.

We can be certain of one thing (and perhaps only this one in an increasingly uncertain world): there will, from now, always be business in cyber security – in fool-proofing the cloud, in blockchain technology, in coding, and everything else therein.

Data theft is a problem of our time. Truthfully a misnomer, data theft indeed does not only refer to depriving owners of their data, but also refers to making unauthorized copies of private, copyrighted data. Data theft most commonly happens when employees mishandle or purposefully leak information, the latter as most famously committed by whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

This new nature of crime is an extreme threat to corporations all around the world. They debilitate business operations and/or may distract businesses from “real” cyber-attacks such as hacking. However, when we are forced to acknowledge the nature of the internet in a world where most are digitally literate, we realize that “any threat to a computer … can affect the national security, essential services, defence or foreign relations of Singapore”[1]. In 2017, the Singapore Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) was hacked, and “the personal data of 850 national servicemen and employees [were] stolen”[2]. This was an enormous surprise, seeing as the Ministry had “on a daily level, experience[d] hundreds of thousands of cyber intrusion attempts ranging from simple probes to sophisticated cyberespionage efforts”.[3] This successful hack underscores the growing skill of hackers, our failure to keep up with too quickly evolving criminal techniques, and most of all, our own growing vulnerability.

In September of the same year, AXA, one of the most forefront insurance firms, also experienced a far-reaching cyberattack. “[P]ersonal data belonging to about 5,400 of [their] customers, past and present … was compromised”[4]; among that data: email addresses, mobile numbers, insurance policy numbers and dates of birth[5].

Once a rarity, data thefts and breaches are now part of our everyday conversation. “The SPF noted an increase in the proportion of cybercrimes to overall crime cases from 7.9 per cent in 2014 to 13.7 per cent in 2016”.[6] Criminals are realizing that there is new tenure given to them by countries such as ours, who premise most of our development on cyber infrastructure. The growing of ourselves into a “Smart Nation” is truly a double-edged sword.

In an attempt to ward ourselves against even more crushing attacks, the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act (CMCA) was founded in 2013. A progeny of the Computer Misuse Act (CMA) of 1993, the CMCA is:

“An Act to make provision for securing computer material against unauthorised access or modification, to require or authorise the taking of measures to ensure cybersecurity, and for matters related thereto.”[7]

The CMCA is the main backbone of Singapore’s defence against cybercrimes. Its predecessor, the CMA, was enacted to criminalise unauthorized access or modification of data and other computer crimes, and was amended twice between 1994 and 2012 to introduce new offences that helps us keep pace with newer criminal behaviour. In 2013, the CMA was amended to include cybersecurity measures and transnational offences, both lurking dangers for Singapore. This amended CMA was simultaneously renamed the CMCA. This article aims to dissect its usefulness and role in our future.

First, there are still numerous cases that are not caught by the CMCA. The purview of the CMCA only includes nascent, non-traditional cases such as unauthorized access to data or hacking from an overseas computer. “[T]raditional crimes performed online such as online cheating, and cyber extortion” exist in the purview of the Singapore Penal Code[8], the Defamation Act[9], or the Undesirable Publications Act[10]. It is curious that Parliament did not expand the CMCA beyond its current 27 pages to include traditional cybercrimes. This may especially pose a problem when cases involve a large accumulation of offences across different pieces of legislation.

Not only this, ambiguity is littered throughout the CMCA. With this article’s subject matter in mind, we shall first direct our attention to the lack of a definition for “theft” in the CMCA. Despite data theft being omnipresent when discussing cybercrime, it is not mentioned explicitly in the legislation. Only the description of data theft is described in S.2(b) in the CMCA as the:

cop[ying] or mov[ing] it (data) to any storage medium other than that in which it is held or to a different location in the storage medium in which it is held.

This definition’s narrow ambit is problematic. The CMCA’s definition of data theft only allows direct perpetrators to be punished, and does not advise on journalists, reporters, netizens, and other such parties using second-hand stolen data in the course of their work. For example, a news reporter who uses stolen private, encrypted data will not be held liable, even if they have clearly promulgated the principle of data theft. This does not mete out justice, nor serve to rectify the mischief the CMCA purportedly aims to rectify, which is that of “ensuring cybersecurity[11]. Had ‘theft’ been defined similarly to that in the Singapore Penal Code[12], We would think that journalists, reporters, netizens, etc. would be held liable for using information obtained by illegal means, regardless of whether they had committed that illegal act by their own resources. As the law currently stands, such parties cannot be charged – S.8A of the CMCA states clearly that the usage of stolen data is only an offence if the usage facilitates or leads to the commission of any offence under any written law. Unless stolen data used is for the purposes of blameworthy acts (for example, to achieve the ends of defamation or the breaching of the Internal Security Act), parties can use stolen data indiscriminately.

We find this ludicrous. First, this freedom should not be allowed to exist for second-hand data abusers, even if they are legitimate journalists or reporters. Secondly, this allows the public at large to leverage on breached cybersecurity for profitability sake. It is thus not only a question of ethics, but also a question of drafting. Ambiguities like this would render legislation such as the CMCA useless, or ineffective, to eradicate cybercrime. This was exactly the main concern of Mr Murai Pillai in Parliamentary Debates Singapore: Official Report, vol 94 (3 April 2017). Mr Desmond Lee then later tried to assuage Mr Pillai’s worries in the same Debates, stating:

There is nothing wrong with the journalist reporting on the hacking incident, or the researcher who works with the hacked personal information for research purposes. But it is doubtful if they would ever need to disclose the hacked personal information itself, as part of the report or research findings. For example, there is no need for them to publish details such as hacked credit card numbers, as part of the report on the hacking incident, or the research findings. Depending on the circumstances, indiscriminately making available hacked personal information may amount to an offence.

However, we are unconvinced. Legislation should be able to stand on its own legs, and not crumble under any ambiguity. The failure to codify what the “circumstances” that constitute an offence are, courts will be forced to enforce arbitrary, uncertain standards. This does not bode well for the future of the CMCA.

Next, the usage of “Minister” in 12A(2), 15A(1), and 15A(4) of the CMCA also gives rise to much uncertainty. The CMCA accords an individual Minister supreme authority to oversee investigative bodies, much more than the courts or any another government body, such as the Singapore Police Force. This is much unlike the United States, where the Attorney-General governs investigators such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Court Judges may review such powers as they wish[13]. There exists an airtight check-and-balance in the United States system of investigation into such crimes. However, there seems to be a lack of safeguards to ensure utmost fairness and certainty in protecting cyber privacy in Singapore. We argue that an advisory or supervisory committee should be set up to review the decisions of the Minister, given the “sensitive, private or corporate”[14] nature of information breached through data theft.

Next, the CMCA defines cybercrimes that cause “serious harm in Singapore” worthy of criminality in 11(4) as that which causes:

  1. illness, injury or death of individuals in Singapore;
  2. a disruption of, or a serious diminution of public confidence in, the provision of any essential service within the meaning of section 15A(12) in Singapore;
  3. a disruption of, or a serious diminution of public confidence in, the performance of any duty or function of, or the exercise of any power by, the Government, an Organ of State, a statutory board, or a part of the Government, an Organ of State or a statutory board; or
  4. damage to the national security, defence or foreign relations of Singapore.

This does not assuage worries for companies that are: not only as equally vulnerable as any other Singapore government service, but also equally important to either the cyber health of Singapore or public confidence in the barriers Singapore has erected for cyber attacks. This limits the effectiveness of the CMCA, and goes against Parliament intention to eradicate cybercrimes. We are of the view that the CMCA should expand its reach to protect corporations, especially large ones such as AXA, from debilitating data thefts. A criminal who hacks into a Singapore government service should be held to the same standards of liability as one who hacks for the sake of injuring vulnerable Singaporeans.

Last but not least, there is no mention of intent in the CMCA.  No allowances are made for uninformed offenders. On one hand, this will prove to be a difficult obstacle for potential defendants who operate under a bona fide mistake. On the other, this might be in line with parliamentary interest to effectively eradicate cybercrime in Singapore, regardless of whether it was done with malignance. It might also serve as a powerful incentive for employees and companies to educate themselves on these codified offences.

All in all, however, the CMCA is definitely a step in the right direction for Singapore, who will only become more reliant on cyber infrastructures in the next 50 years of our nationhood. Together with the Cyber Security Agency at the frontline, we believe that the CMCA will definitely deter cybercrime and bring us closer to the envisioned future of a country immune to crippling cyberattacks despite all its current flaws.

Written by Chow Ee Ning, class of 2021

*The views and opinions expressed in this article do not constitute legal advice and solely belong to the author and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the NUS Criminal Justice Club or its affiliates.

[1] Assoc. Prof. Ho Peng Kee in Parliamentary Debates Singapore: Official Report, Vol 76 at Col 3321 (10 November 2003)

[2] Loke Kok Fai, Channel NewsAsia (28 February 2017). “MINDEF Internet system breached; data stolen from national servicemen, employees”, accessed:

[3] Mr Ong Ye Kung (for the Minister of Defence) in Parliamentary Debates Singapore: Official Report, Vol 94 (3 April 2017)

[4] Claire Huang, The Business Times (7 September 2017). “AXA policyholders’ data breached after cyber attack”, accessed:

[5] Ibid.

[6] Security Agency of Singapore (2017). “Singapore Cyber Landscape 2016”, accessed:

[7] Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act (Cap. 50A, 2007 Rev. Ed. Sing.)

[8] Penal Code (Cap 224, 2008 Rev. Ed. Sing.) at sections 415

[9] Defamation Act (Cap.75, 2014 Rev. Ed. Sing.) at sections 5 and 6

[10] Undesirable Publications Act (Cap. 338, 1998 Rev. Ed. Sing.) at sections 11 and 12

[11] Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act (Cap. 50A, 2007 Rev. Ed. Sing.)

[13] United State Code. “The Attorney General’s Guidelines for Domestic FBI Operations”, accessed:

[14] Mr Ravindran in Parliamentary Debates Singapore: Official Report, Vol 76 at Col 3321 (10 November 2003)