Rioting In Singapore: 6 Things You Should Know

by 27 December 2023Knowledge & Insights

Rioting in Singapore is often a topic shrouded in misconceptions. While the city-state is renowned for its strict laws and emphasis on social order, understanding the legal aspects of rioting is vital.

In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of rioting in Singapore and shed light on related issues, such as unlawful assembly, penalties, criminal records, arrestable offences, and more.

1. What Is Unlawful Assembly?

Unlawful assembly is the precursor to rioting in Singapore, defined under Section 141 of the Penal Code (Chapter 224). It occurs when five or more individuals come together with a common purpose that may breach the peace or cause fear or alarm to the public.

Such gatherings may include persons with intentions to engage in violence or other disruptive activities. Under this legal framework, the authorities aim to prevent situations that could potentially escalate into full-fledged riots and maintain public order.


2. How Unlawful Assembly Is Related To Rioting In Singapore?

Individuals who commit rioting are typically considered guilty of unlawful assembly as well. Rioting in Singapore Law often involves a group of individuals coming together with a common purpose to use violence, create public disturbance, or cause fear or alarm.

It’s crucial to understand that the initial gathering, if not controlled, can escalate into a full-blown riot. The authorities take swift action to prevent such situations from spiralling out of control.

Since unlawful assembly is a precursor to rioting, those involved in a riot are likely to be charged with both offences. The Penal Code addresses both unlawful assembly (Section 141) and rioting (Section 147) as separate offences, but they are closely related.

Authorities may charge individuals involved in a riot with both unlawful assembly and the act of rioting to address the collective behaviour and its consequences.


3. Penalties For Unlawful Assembly

Unlawful assembly is considered a serious offence in Singapore. Those found guilty can face penalties that may include imprisonment of up to 2 years, fines, or both. Here are some cases of unlawful assembly in Singapore:

  • In 2016, an activist was found guilty of organising an unlawful assembly during a public discussion titled “Civil Disobedience and Social Movements” at a void deck in Singapore. In 2021, the activist was fined SGD 8000.
  • Another unlawful assembly case in 2016 involved a group of residents from the Singapore Boys’ Home. They were charged with the alleged intention of committing vandalism, specifically damaging bed frames and smashing fluorescent lamps belonging to the home. The boys may face imprisonment of up to 2 years with a fine.


4. Penalties For Rioting In Singapore

Rioting is a more severe offence, often resulting from unlawful assembly. Singapore enforces strict penalties for rioting, including imprisonment for up to 7 years, fines, caning, or a combination of these punishments. To underscore the seriousness of this offence, consider these real rioting cases in Singapore:

  • In 2022, five men were arrested and charged with the offence of rioting on Fullerton Road. If sentenced guilty, the offenders may face jail term for up to seven years and caning.
  • Last January 2023, nine men were arrested for the alleged unlawful assembly and rioting after the police received a report about a fight in Redhill. The Court charged five of them with rioting, armed with a deadly weapon.

Penalties For Rioting, Armed With A Deadly Weapon

The Singapore Penal Code (Section 148) states that rioting, armed with a deadly weapon, involves violence with the use of a weapon that is likely to cause death. Whoever is guilty may be sentenced to up to 10 years of jail term and caning.


5. Sentencing Considerations For Rioting In Singapore

When determining the sentencing, the judge will take into account various factors that can either escalate or mitigate the sentence:

  • The magnitude and location of the riot
  • The degree of force or violence exhibited during the incident
  • The severity of injuries sustained by victims (if applicable)
  • The presence or use of weapons during the riot
  • Whether the riot was premeditated or spontaneous
  • Whether the offender abused any position of authority while committing the offence


6. Offences Relating To Unlawful Assembly And Rioting

Apart from unlawful assembly and rioting, Singapore has strict laws related to public order and security. These include offences such as affray, public nuisance, and possession of weapons. Understanding the broader legal landscape is essential for residents and visitors alike.


Affray is a criminal offence in Singapore that involves two or more people fighting in a public place and causing fear or alarm to the public.

It’s different from unlawful assembly and rioting in that it typically involves a smaller number of individuals engaging in a physical fight or violent confrontation in a public setting. Those found guilty of affray can face penalties such as imprisonment, fines, or both.

Public Nuisance

Public nuisance refers to actions that disrupt public peace, safety, or order. This offence encompasses a wide range of behaviours, including creating excessive noise, obstructing public pathways, or engaging in activities that interfere with the comfort and convenience of the public.

Public nuisance is a criminal offence in Singapore, and those convicted may face penalties, including fines or imprisonment.

Possession of Weapons

Singapore has stringent laws regulating the possession and use of weapons. Unauthorised possession of weapons, such as firearms or dangerous knives, is a serious offence.

The possession of weapons without the necessary licences or permits can result in criminal charges, significant fines, and imprisonment. Singapore enforces strict control over weapons to maintain public safety, property, and security.


Conclusion About Rioting In Singapore

Understanding the legal intricacies of unlawful assembly and rioting in Singapore is of paramount importance to ensure compliance with the country’s strict laws.

Unlawful assembly involves three or more individuals gathering with a common purpose that may disrupt public peace, while rioting escalates into violence and poses a significant threat to public order. The consequences of a person being charged with these offences can be severe, including imprisonment, fines, and caning.

If you or someone you know is suspected of facing charges related to unlawful assembly or rioting, it is essential to seek experienced legal representation to navigate the complexities of Singapore’s legal system.

Tembusu Law’s team of experienced criminal defence lawyers in Singapore is well-equipped to provide expert guidance and support during such challenging times.

Our expertise in criminal defence can make a crucial difference in ensuring that your rights are protected and that you receive a fair legal process.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to Tembusu Law for the legal assistance you may need. We provide a free 30-minute consultation to help you move forward in your case.


Frequently Asked Questions About Rioting In Singapore

What To Do When You Suspect That You’ll Be Charged With Rioting?

If you find yourself in a situation where you suspect you might be charged with rioting, it is crucial to cooperate with the authorities. Seek legal counsel immediately and refrain from engaging in any further illegal activities. Legal experts can provide guidance on how to navigate the legal process.

Will Unlawful Assembly And Rioting Result In A Criminal Record?

Yes, being charged with unlawful assembly or rioting in Singapore can result in a criminal record. Having a criminal record can have long-lasting consequences, affecting one’s future job prospects and travel opportunities. It highlights the importance of adhering to the law and avoiding involvement in unlawful activities.

Is Rioting An Arrestable Offence?

Yes, rioting is an arrestable offence in Singapore. The same is true for unlawful assembly. The police have the authority to arrest individuals suspected of participating in such activities to prevent further public disturbances.

Is Rioting A Bailable Offense In Singapore?

Rioting is generally considered a non-bailable offence in Singapore. However, bail may be considered in exceptional cases, depending on various factors, including the defendant’s background and the circumstances of the case.

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