Types of Offences Involving Physical Assault

by 11 July 2021Criminal Defence, Knowledge & Insights

In legal speak, physical assault in Singapore is referred to as Voluntarily Causing Hurt and is defined under section 321 of the Penal Code. Voluntarily Causing Hurt covers actively and intentionally hurting someone, as well as acting in the knowledge that hurt is likely to be caused.

For example, if someone were to intervene and try to break up an existing fight, and ended up causing hurt to one or more person, that someone is still liable for physical assault – even if they did not instigate the fight in the first place. A case involving a woman who severely injured her mother-in-law while trying to break up a scuffle between her father and husband illustrates this.

What constitutes physical assault? 

According to section 319 of the Penal Code, “hurt” is defined as any physical bodily pain, disease, or infirmity inflicted by one person on another. This covers a wide range of afflictions, from skinned knees and bruises to cuts or sprains.

There is a severity of physical assault involving “grievous hurt” that is dealt with more seriously in Singapore. “Grievous hurt” includes any permanent loss of sight, hearing; permanent impairing of a limb or joint; permanent disfiguration of the head or face; broken or dislocated bones; penetration of the vagina or anus without consent resulting in severe bodily pain; and more.

Physical assault also covers sexual battery and domestic violence.

What is the punishment for physical assault in Singapore? 

Penalties for Voluntarily Causing Hurt are a fine of up to $5,000, imprisonment of up to 3 years, or both.

For cases of aggravated assault where grievous hurt is caused, or if dangerous weapons are involved, penalties are higher. Examples of “dangerous weapons” include:

  • Instruments for shooting, stabbing, or cutting
  • Poison
  • Corrosive substances
  • Fire or heated substances
  • Explosive substances
  • Any substance that is harmful to inhale, swallow, or be injected into the blood
  • Animals

In such cases, punishments can vary from fines and caning to life imprisonment, or a combination of all.

What factors will the Court consider when sentencing?

To determine the appropriate punishment for a physical assault offence, the Court will take into account the following:

  • Whether you are remorseful
  • Whether the assault was premeditated
  • Whether the victim was vulnerable
  • Whether you have committed similar offences before
  • Whether a weapon was involved

What if I’m a first-time offender? 

For first-time offenders only who plead guilty to Voluntarily Causing Hurt, the Court determines punishment by referring to a sentencing framework that is categorised into different bands based on the intensity of harm

Band 1: Low harm

When the victim sustains no visible injuries or minor cuts, bruises and scratches, the first band will apply.

Cases that fall under this band will usually get a fine as punishment. Should a prison sentence be handed out, the duration of imprisonment will be up to 4 weeks.

Band 2: Moderate harm

In the event that a victim requires short hospitalisation or a significant amount of medical leave due to their injury, the offender will be held liable under the second band.

Offenders may be imprisoned for a term of at least 4 weeks to a maximum of 6 months.

Band 3: Serious harm

For more severe instances of harm, the third band will apply. Grievous harm is defined as when the victim has sustained serious injuries of a permanent nature or has required a surgical procedure.

The offender may be punished with imprisonment from 6 months to up to 2 years.

Help! I’ve been physically assaulted. What can I do?

Report the incident to the police immediately so that they may record your case and collect evidence of your injuries. Submit any evidence you may have, such as video recordings or physical evidence. Even if the police decline to pursue your case, you still have the option to file a Magistrate’s Complaint against your attacker and pursue a criminal case. Contact our team of criminal lawyers in Singapore for any advice or assistance you may need.

What should I do if I’ve been accused of physical assault?

Work closely with your lawyer to discuss your options and get advice on how to proceed with your case. Our expert criminal defence lawyers are here to ensure you receive the fairest possible outcome, and that your experience in the Courts is as smooth as possible. Contact us today for a discussion.

About the author

About the author

Jonathan Wong

Jonathan is the Founder and Managing Director of Tembusu Law. He is also the founder of LawGuide Singapore, a prominent legaltech startup which successfully created and launched Singapore’s first legal chatbot in 2017.


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