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Singapore police arrest 23 in child abuse crackdown

Reports suggest despite strict laws for the protection of children, the city-state has seen a relative rise in child abuse
People walk out of the SMRT subway station in the Chinatown district of Singapore. The city-state has seen a series of arrests and convictions over child abuse in recent years

People walk out of the SMRT subway station in the Chinatown district of Singapore. The city-state has seen a series of arrests and convictions over child abuse in recent years. (Photo: AFP)

Published: March 27, 2023 10:29 AM GMT
Updated: March 27, 2023 10:39 AM GMT

Singaporean law enforcers arrested 23 men amid an island-wide crackdown on online child sexual exploitation activities, police say.

The men aged between 22 and 61 are suspected of possessing, distributing, and gaining access to child abuse materials, transmitting obscene materials, and possessing obscene films, police said in a statement on March 27, Today Online reported.

During the five-week operation by the Criminal Investigation Department, electronic devices, including computers, handphones, and hard disks were seized. The gadgets are suspected of being used for online child abuse, police said.

Some of those arrested have been referred to the Home Team (HT) Community Assistance and Referral Scheme where social workers will interview the men to assess whether further intervention is needed.

The HT Cares unit was formed in 2018 as a support organization for law enforcement agencies. Stationed in police divisions, social workers help in tackling the root causes of crime and stopping offenders from re-committing the same crimes.

Police said the men arrested face five years in jail, a fine, or caning if found guilty of having in possession or gaining access to child abuse materials and knowing the material is used for child abuse, the report said.

Those found guilty of distributing, selling, or offering for sale child abuse material, or having these materials for the purpose of doing so, can be jailed for up to seven years, and fined or caned.

Persons who circulate or possess obscene materials can be punished with a jail term of up to three months, fined, or both.

"The police will continue to take tough enforcement action against online child sexual exploitation activities, including the possession and distribution of child abuse materials," said the police.

"Those found engaging in such activities will be dealt with sternly in accordance with the law," police added.

Media reports suggest despite strict laws for the protection of children, Singapore has seen a relative rise in child abuse including online sexual abuse of children in recent years, resulting in arrests and convictions.

On March 25, a court sentenced a 30-year-old man to seven months and two weeks in jail after he pleaded guilty to being in possession of child pornography, among other offenses, the Straits Times reported on March 27.

Catholic Church in Singapore has also tackled child abuse cases by Catholics in the past years.

Last year, a court jailed a lay Catholic for five years after he was found guilty of sexually abusing two minors.

In April 2021, a report exposed how Catholic altar servers in an unnamed parish were involved in “inappropriate behaviors” for years, triggering shock waves among the Catholic community.

Both cases prompted actions from the church authorities, especially from the Professional Standards Office of the Singapore Archdiocese set up in 2011 to deal with sexual abuse cases.

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