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More on PP v N

You may have seen that No To Rape has been featured in the Straits Times again. Thank you once again to all the volunteers and supporters who have helped to make this campaign newsworthy. Your efforts mean that the No To Rape message can reach a wider group of people.

Interestingly, blogger Mr Wang has picked up the story (we are grateful for the link!), and it emerges that he was the prosecutor in the landmark marital rape case of PP v N (we posted the facts previously but the link is malfunctioning slightly – click on the ‘Legal’ tag on the right and you can read them). Mr Wang describes his experience in the High Court:

The prosecution appealed for a higher sentence. I took the case to the High Court. There I presented to the Chief Justice various arguments for a heavier sentence.

I still remember the first question that Yong Pung How had asked in court. He asked, “Why wasn’t this man charged for rape?”

Yong didn’t know that the prosecution couldn’t do that. He looked slightly stunned, when I pointed him to the relevant immunity provision in the Penal Code. At first sight, Yong’s ignorance of that point was very surprising (you would expect the Chief Justice to know better). However, on further reflection, Yong’s ignorance was not that surprising.

Why? Well, as Chief Justice, Yong had heard hundreds, perhaps thousands of criminal cases. So he knew a lot about criminal law. But Yong had never heard a single case where a husband had been charged for raping his wife. And that, of course, was because the law did not even allow the prosecution to charge any husband for such an offence.

Anyway, the Chief Justice increased the sentence for N. He brought the overall sentence close to the maximum possible, for the charges of “criminal intimidation” and “voluntarily causing hurt”. If I recall correctly, it added up to a few years’ imprisonment. This was a big improvement over the original sentence, but it was still a lot lower than what it would have been, for a bona fide rape charge. Even the Chief Justice is constrained by the words in the Penal Code, you see.

It may be worth referring to the words of then-Chief Justice Yong in the case, which reflect the principles that rape is a form of sexual violence and that violence committed against one’s spouse is no less severe than violence against a stranger. Both these principles support the total abolition of marital immunity for rape. We have added emphasis to the relevant language.

The district judge did not appear to have addressed his mind to the circumstances surrounding the commission of the offences and, in particular, the violent behaviour of the respondent. One relevant consideration was his motive in restraining the wife. The use of force was deemed necessary by him to compel her to submit to his sexual desires when she rejected his initial sexual advances. It was held in Chia Kim Heng Frederick v PP [...] that sexual intercourse with a woman against her will ‘must by its very act contain an element of violence’. Even though the respondent could not be charged for rape because of the statutory exception set out in s 375 of the Penal Code which provides that a man shall not be guilty of raping his wife so long as she is not under 13 years of age, this does not detract from the fact that non-consensual sexual intercourse with the wife is still an act of violence which ought to have been regarded as an aggravating factor. [...]

At this junction, I would like to deal briefly with the prosecution’s submission that the trial judge had placed undue weight on the fact that the offences occurred as a result of a domestic dispute. Although the district judge made a passing reference in his judgment to the fact that ‘the offences happened consequent to a domestic dispute’, it was not entirely clear as to the exact weight he had placed on this factor in deciding on the sentence. In my view, it would be wrong to regard this as a mitigating factor. An offence committed against one’s spouse should not be treated any less seriously than an offence committed against a complete stranger.

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This entry was posted on Sunday, August 16th, 2009 at 1:52 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “More on PP v N”

  1. Subra V S says:

    Yes I think I am aware of this one. I also think it is ridiculous. Rape is rape.

    I know some friends who have been scarred thus. It is admirable that they have the strength to go on and achieve more in their lives with all that long-standing trauma. We’re talking about years of rape here.

    We must change the law. Rape is not sex. Rape is violence. We gotta understand that.

    Warm Regards


  2. admin says:

    Dear Subra

    Thank you for your thoughts and for sharing your experiences. We hope that change can come soon and wish you and your friends the best.

    Best regards

    No To Rape team

  3. [...] we mentioned a short while ago, No To Rape has been in the papers again. Those interested can follow up on the coverage [...]

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