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Thu, Dec 24, 2009
The Straits Times
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When a molestation case can be settled out of court
by Mavis Toh

PROVISIONS in the law allow for minor offences such as simple molestation cases, wrongful restraint or causing hurt to be settled out of court.

This happens only if the victim agrees to drop the matter in place of some form of compensation.

Any offer to compound the offence must also require the sanction of the judge.

A spokesman for the Subordinate Courts said that a person accused of such offences may apply to the court for the offence to be compounded, if the complainant is agreeable.

She added: 'The consent of the court must be obtained before the matter can be compounded.'

Lawyers said that the negotiation for compensation happens largely without the involvement of the court. Offers of compensation are made to the victims through the case's investigation officer.

'We avoid dealing with the victims directly in case there are other allegations,' said lawyer Amolat Singh.

Lawyers told The Straits Times that other Commonwealth countries such as Malaysia and Sri Lanka, have similar laws to compound less serious offences.

Proposed changes to the Criminal Procedure Code last year had included suggestions to leave the decision to compound certain offences to the public prosecutor - even before an accused is charged in court.

But not all cases can be settled out of court, especially if it involves public interest. One example is cases of maid abuse.

In 2005, the court also threw out a bid by a company chairman, accused of assaulting another motorist, to have the case compounded for $7,500. The prosecution objected, as road rage cases were on the rise.

The chairman was eventually fined the maximum $1,000, although he could have been jailed up to a year.

Those convicted of outrage of modesty can be jailed up to two years or fined or caned, or subjected to any two such punishments.

This article was first published in The Straits Times.

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