Probation has been introduced as an alternative to penal sentences, to allow for greater flexibility in sentencing. Probation orders are generally targeted at youthful offenders but may still be ordered for adult offenders in exceptional circumstances or if he or she demonstrates an extremely strong propensity for reform.
In Public Prosecutor v Siow Kai Yuan Terence  SGHC 82, the accused was sentenced to 2 weeks’ jail term after his probation sentence was overturned by the High Court. When coming to its decision, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon adopted a three-limbed framework to determine if the offender displays extremely propensity for reform:
- Whether the offender demonstrates a positive desire to change following the commission of the offence(s); (“first limb”)
- There conditions in the offender’s life that are conducive for helping him to turn over a new leaf; (“second limb”)
- If the court concludes, after the above two steps, that the offender demonstrates an extremely strong propensity for reform, it then has to consider if there are any risk factors that requires the court to revisit its finding of the offender’s high capacity for reform. (“third limb”)
The following is a list of non-exhaustive factors provided by the court to assess if the offender demonstrates a positive desire to change:
- Evidence of genuine remorse (such as plea of guilty at the earliest opportunity and full and frank disclosure beyond the offences he is presently facing)
- Taking of active steps post offence to change and turn over a new leaf
- Compliance with and amenability to rehabilitative measures
- Lack of re-offending
- Whether the charged offence(s) were an act out of his usual character (such as a clean record and otherwise unexceptional conduct and temperament)
The following is a list of non-exhaustive factors provided by the court to assess the conditions in the offender’s life, if they are conducive for helping him to turn over a new leaf:
- Strong family support system
- Availability of external support system (such as a romantic partner)
- Availability of external motivations for reform (such as the need to provide for one’s family)
- Availability of positive outlets (such as enrolment in school or employment)
The following is a list of non-exhaustive risk factors to assess if the offender still displays extremely strong propensity for reform despite those factors:
- Association with negative peers
- Presence of bad habits (such as habitual drug use or dependence)
Despite satisfying the three limbs and showing an extremely strong propensity for reform, the High Court emphasized that rehabilitation (the dominant consideration in probation) may still be displaced if there is a need for deterrence and even retribution for serious offences.
Consult a criminal lawyer
If you still have questions and/or wish to find more about Probation for adult offences, do not hesitate to contact us and find out what we can do for you!