INTRODUCTION

On 15 November 2014, the Protection from Harassment Act 2014 (“Act”) came into effect. In conjunction with the coming into effect of the Act, the following subsidiary legislation have also been issued:

  1. Protection from Harassment (Exempt Class of Persons) Order 2014 (“Exempt Persons Order”); and
  2. Protection from Harassment (Public Service Worker) Order 2014 (“Public Service Worker Order”).

EXEMPT PERSONS ORDER

The Act provides an avenue for victims of harassment to apply to the District Court for a protection order or an expedited protection order requiring, among other things, that no person shall publish or continue to publish an offending communication which is the subject of a likely contravention of the various offences under the Act.

In addition, pursuant to section 15(2) of the Act, the District Court may also make an order requiring a person not to publish or to cease from continuing to publish any false statement about any subject, upon application by that subject, unless that person publishes such notification as the District Court thinks necessary to bring attention to the falsehood and true facts.

Pursuant to the Exempt Persons Order, the court will not be able to make a protection or expedited protection order prohibiting the publication of an offending communication, or an order under section 15(2) of the Act, against, inter alia:

  1. persons who are not the originator of the offending communication or statement which the victim has complained of;
  2. persons who do not select any specific person who may hear, see or otherwise perceive the offending communication or statement which the victim has complained of; or
  3. certain categories of network access operators, data transmission or routing service providers, online search engine indexing providers, etc.

It should be noted that, at present and until further notice is provided by the State Courts, applications for a protection order, an expedited protection order and/or an order under section 15(2) of the Act are to be filed manually at the Crime Registry located at the State Courts (please refer to the Registrar’s Circular No. 9 of 2014 entitled “Manual Filing of Applications under Sections 12, 13 and 15 of the Protection from Harassment Act 2014”). This Registrar’s Circular has also indicated that three sets of the application will need to be filed.

PUBLIC SERVICE WORKER ORDER

It is also an offence under the Act to use or make any indecent, threatening, abusive or insulting words, behaviour or communication towards or to a public servant or public service worker in relation to the execution of the victim’s duty as such public servant or public service worker. The penalty for such an offence is a fine of up to S$5,000 and/or imprisonment for a term of up to 12 months.

Under the Act, a “public service worker” refers to an individual who belongs to one of the prescribed classes of employees or workers that provides a service which is essential to the well-being of the public or the proper functioning of Singapore.

The prescribed classes of persons and the services provided by them are set out in the Schedule of the Public Service Worker Order, and include, broadly, certain specified persons who are:

  1. healthcare professionals at public healthcare institutions;
  2. providing education services for pupils or students of specified educational institutions;
  3. employees of a bus service licensee, the Singapore Government or the Land Transport Authority and who are working as bus drivers or public transport officials;
  4. located at public healthcare institutions, educational institutions, bus interchanges, railway premises or railway commuter facilities, etc and who perform administrative, security, cleaning or operations services;
  5. cleaners carrying out cleaning work in a public place or a public market; and
  6. providing social services to the public under any social service programme run, or fully or partially funded, by the Singapore Government or the National Council of Social Service; etc.

COMMENTARY

The Public Service Worker Order and the Exempt Persons Order clarify some of the parameters for the application of the Act.

The Schedule of the Public Service Worker Order sets out an extensive list of the specific categories of employees/workers who are “public service workers” within the meaning of the Act (and who would thereby be protected under the Act). However, at this juncture, it is not clear whether the definition of “public service worker” under the Act is intended to cover the full scope of employees/workers of service providers to whom various Government bodies may outsource their operations (including, for instance, auxiliary police). It remains to be seen whether the scope of the Public Service Worker Order may be expanded in future to include these other types of employees/workers.

Further, based on the Exempt Persons Order, it would appear that protection orders and expedited protection orders prohibiting the publication of offending communications and section 15(2) orders, would generally not be able to be taken out against persons who are not originators of the offending communication or statement, or who are merely facilitating or acting as a form of conduit (eg by providing a forum or platform) for the transmission of the offending communication or statement.

REFERENCES

Please click on the following links to access the documents.

  1. Protection from Harassment Act 2014
  2. Protection from Harassment (Exempt Class of Persons) Order 2014
  3. Protection from Harassment (Public Service Worker) Order 2014
  4. Registrar’s Circular No. 9 of 2014 – “Manual Filing of Applications under Sections 12, 13, and 15 of the Protection from Harassment Act 2014”