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Penal Code Section 321: Voluntarily Causing Hurt Explained

Jan 04, 2024

Voluntarily Causing Hurt

Penal Code Provisions

Voluntarily causing hurt is defined in Section 321 of the Penal Code as follows:

Whoever does any act with the intention of thereby causing hurt to any person, or with the knowledge that he is likely thereby to cause hurt to any person, and does thereby cause hurt to any person, is said “voluntarily to cause hurt””.

Section 321 of the Penal Code encompasses a wide spectrum of different forms of hurt. In fact, due to the myriad of ways in which hurt can be inflicted on to a person, the drafters of the Penal Code deliberately gave “hurt” a broad meaning. “Hurt” is defined in Section 319 of the Penal Code, which reads as follows:

Whoever causes bodily pain, disease or infirmity to any person is said to cause hurt

On the point of what constitutes “hurt”, it ought to be noted that “infirmity” encompasses mental anguish. Thus, if an offender does an act which inflicts psychological wounds to a victim, the offender can be convicted under Section 321 of the Penal Code, involving criminal lawyers.

It should also be noted that an offender must have intended to cause hurt to the victim or must have known that his act is likely to cause hurt. This is a subjective inquiry rather than an objective one. In other words, much would turn on the offender’s state of mind at the time of the commission of the offence.

The punishment for causing hurt can be found in Section 323 of the Penal Code, which provides for:

a. An imprisonment term of up to 3 years; or

b. Fine of up to S$5,000; or

c. Imprisonment and Fine

Sentencing Guideline

“Hurt” can manifest itself in different ways. Different cases will invariably involve different injuries, each with varying degrees of severity. On the lower end of the scale, injuries such as bruising comes to mind. On the higher end of the scale, injuries such as a loss of a limb comes to mind.

In determining the appropriate sentence, the Court will necessarily look to the seriousness of the injury at the first step. The following table sets out the different categories of hurt and its corresponding sentence:

BandHurt CausedIndicative Sentencing Range
1Low harm: no visible injury or minor hurt such as bruises, scratches, minor lacerations or abrasionsFines or short custodial term up to 6 weeks
2Moderate harm: hurt resulting in short hospitalisation or a substantial period of medical leave, simple fractures, or temporary or mild loss of a sensory functionBetween 6 weeks’ to 9 months’ imprisonment
3Serious harm: serious injuries which are permanent in nature and/or which necessitate significant surgical proceduresBetween 9 to 36 months’ imprisonment

At the next step, the Court will make the appropriate adjustments to the indicative starting sentence based on an assessment of the offender’s culpability and all the circumstances of the case.

Some of the aggravating factors which might call for an uplift to the indicative starting sentence are:

a. The extent of deliberation or premeditation;

b. The manner and duration of the attack;

c. The victim’s vulnerability;

d. The use of any weapons;

e. Whether the attack was undertaken by a group;

f. Relevant antecedents on the offender’s part; and

g. Any prior intervention by the authorities.

Conversely, an offender’s genuine remorse (which is a mitigating factor) might warrant a downward adjustment to the indicative sentence.



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