Many in Singapore would remember the media frenzy over the infamous vandal Michael Fay and his many acts of vandalism. This case garnered international attention as many others felt that Singapore was too harsh on a ‘simple’ vandalism case. In this article, we explain what vandalism and its punishment is. Also, why did Michael Fay received a severe punishment? Read on.
What is Vandalism?
According to the Vandalism Act, an act of vandalism is defined as –
without the permission of the Government or other authorised body, or without the permission of the owner of a private property –
write, draw, paint, mark or inscribe on any public or private property any word, slogan, caricature, drawings, mark, symbol or other thing;
affixing, posting up or displaying on any public or private property any poster, placard, advertisement, bill, notice, paper or other document; or
hanging, suspending, hoisting, affixing or displaying on or from any public or private property any flag, bunting, standard, banner or the like with any word, slogan, caricature, drawings, mark, symbol or other thing; or
stealing, destroying or damaging any public property.
When someone takes public property, movable and immovable, belonging to the Government, it is not considered theft under section 378, but vandalism.
What is the Punishment for Vandalism?
Under section 3 of the Vandalism Act, anyone who is found guilty and convicted for such an offence, may face a fine not exceeding $2,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years and shall also be liable to caning with not less than 3 strokes but not more than 8 strokes. The punishment of caning shall not be imposed if it is a first-time conviction under section 3, if the writing, drawing, mark or inscription is done with pencil, crayon, chalk or other erasable substance.
Can I be Arrested for Vandalising?
Yes, a person who has committed vandalism can be arrested. However, it is a non-bailable offence, which means it is up to the police or the court to decide whether or not the offender can be released on bail after being arrested.
Why was the Michael Fay’s Case so Sensational?
Michael Fay was an American that was living in Singapore and he committed 45 counts of acts of vandalism. He was arrested and sentenced to 4 months’ imprisonment and 6 strokes of the cane. This case was controversial because of the caning he was to receive and not the imprisonment term. Many Americans felt that caning was archaic and barbaric. Many also felt that his acts of vandalism did not warrant such a severe punishment.
The vandalism case took the media by storm when it became a diplomatic crisis as the then President of the United States of America, Bill Clinton, personally requested clemency. Ultimately, Michael served his sentenced and the matter was closed as far as Singapore was concerned. This case served as a deterrent from would-be offenders as Singapore showed a firm and strong stance.
Seeking Legal Advice
Please note that this article is purely informative and does not serve as legal advice. In the event that you or someone you know is facing similar charges, it is advisable to consult a lawyer. Here at Populus Law Corporation, our team specialises in criminal law and will give you an all rounded approach to handling your case. Do not hesitate to contact us via our form or on WhatsApp.