Oral Answer on behalf of the Minister for Law by Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs, Ms Sun Xueling, to Parliamentary Question on the Protection from Harassment Act
6 Aug 2019 Posted in Parliamentary speeches and responses
Ms Anthea Ong (Nominated Member of Parliament)
To ask the Minister for Law (a) whether an extension of the Protection from Harassment Act to cover entities will impose vicarious liability onto employers; and (b) if not, whether the Government plans to move away from the present individual criminal liability-based approach.
For part (a) of the Member’s question, the Protection from Harassment Act (“POHA”) has all along covered both entities (such as companies) and individuals. Apart from POHA, there are many pieces of legislation that cover both entities and individuals. That is the norm. The Penal Code is one example. Likewise, in the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (“POFMA”), the word “person” refers to individuals in Part 3 and to entities such as internet platforms and mass media service providers in Part 4.
The law, meaning Common Law, provides for various ways of attributing vicarious liability. Nothing in POHA specifically rules this out.
Likewise, there are principles laid down in case law, establishing when an individual can be held criminally liable for the acts of an entity. Let me give an example.
POFMA empowers a Minister to issue Directions to an internet intermediary. If an intermediary fails to comply with a Direction without reasonable excuse, its executives may be held liable for that non-compliance if, for example, they are found to have abetted the non-compliance. They may be found to have abetted the non-compliance if they had, amongst other things, suggested, supported, or encouraged the non-compliance – whether by words or by their silence. This is as per existing law.
The Member’s second question is whether the Government plans to move away from the present “individual criminal-liability based approach”. Criminal liability can be imposed on both entities and individuals, when they commit criminal offences. That is already the position in law today.
Last updated on 14 Aug 2019