Culpable Homicide and Murder in Singapore (2023)


In Singapore, killing someone is primarily covered under the offences of murder and culpable homicide, as well as related offences such as causing death by rash or negligent conduct. Culpable homicide and murder are distinct crimes with distinct penalties. This distinction is critical since the death sentence is the maximum punishment for murder, but culpable homicide carries a comparably lighter jail term, as well as possible caning and a fine.

Culpable Homicide

There are three ways for a person to be found guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder under section 299 of the Penal Code. These are if the individual performed an act involving the:

• Intention to cause death;
• Intention to cause bodily injury as is likely to cause death; or
• The knowledge that he/she is likely to cause death.

This offence is less severe than murder. Even though it is not punished by death, this offence is nonetheless penalized by harsh penalties. Because murder is regarded as a subcategory of culpable homicide, the requirements for culpable homicide, found in section 299 of the Penal Code, are quite similar to those for murder. Culpable homicide not amounting to murder occurs when an offender causes the death of another person with the intention to inflict bodily injury likely to cause death or with the knowledge that his or her act was likely to cause death.
In other words, the crime tackles instances in which the offender’s level of blameworthiness was reduced due to a decreased understanding of the likelihood that his or her action would result in death. If the prosecution cannot establish that the criminal had the mental condition needed for a charge of murder, the offender may be prosecuted for this offence instead.

Attempt to Commit Culpable Homicide

Even if the conduct did not result in death, a person might be found guilty of attempting to commit culpable homicide under section 308 of the Penal Code if it was done with the intention to kill someone. The punishment for attempting to commit culpable homicide is determined by whether or not hurt was inflicted.

Punishments for Culpable Homicide

The punishment for a culpable homicide that does not amount to murder is determined by the offender’s mental state at the time of the killing. If death was caused with the intent to cause death or physical injury likely to cause death, the perpetrator would be sentenced to life in prison with caning or up to 20 years in prison with a fine or caning.

If, on the other hand, death was caused with the knowledge that the conduct was likely to cause death but without any intention to cause death or bodily injury that is likely to cause death, the perpetrator faces up to 15 years in jail, a fine, or caning, or any combination of these penalties.

Punishments for Attempting to Commit Culpable Homicide

The following are the punishments for attempting to commit culpable homicide based on whether or not hurt was caused:

• No hurt caused to the victim: Imprisonment for a term up to 7 years and/or a fine; or
• Hurt caused to the victim: Imprisonment for a term of up to 15 years, a fine, caning, or any combination of these punishments.


Murder is a highly serious offence that carries harsh penalties. According to section 300 of the Penal Code, a person commits murder if he or she kills another person while in any of the following states of mind:

• the intention of causing death;
• the intention of causing bodily injury and knowledge that the injury is likely to cause death;
• the intention of causing a bodily injury that is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death;
• the knowledge that what you are doing is so imminently dangerous that it must in all probability cause death.

Furthermore, even if the offender did not plan to kill the real victim but rather someone else, it is still considered murder in Singapore under Singapore law. This refers to circumstances in which a bystander is accidentally killed instead of the intended victim. In such cases, the criminal would still face murder charges.

If the accused’s actions do not fall into one of the above four categories, he or she may instead be charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder. Alternatively, if the accused can show that certain exceptions to murder apply, the murder allegation may be reduced to a culpable homicide that does not amount to murder.

Attempt to Murder

Even if no one died as a result of one’s actions, one can still be charged with attempted murder under section 307 of the Penal Code if the conduct was done with the intention of causing death. The punishments for offenders who commit this secondary offence of attempted murder are determined by whether or not they caused hurt to others.

Punishments for Murder

Under section 302(1) of the Penal Code, a person found guilty of murder will be sentenced to death for doing something with the intention of causing death to the victim.

Judges, on the other hand, have the discretion under section 302(2) of the Penal Code to sentence the offender to death, life imprisonment, or caning if they committed murder through any of the ways described in points 2–4.
If the offender’s conduct outraged the community’s sentiments, the sense of being such a severe affront to humanity and repugnant that the death sentence would be appropriate, the death penalty will be imposed above life imprisonment. The court is likely to decide that the criminal’s conduct would outrage the community’s sentiments and that the death sentence should be imposed if the perpetrator had acted viciously or with a flagrant disdain for human life.

Punishments for Attempt to Murder

The following are the punishments for this secondary offence of attempted murder, which are based on whether or not the perpetrator caused hurt as a result of their actions:

• No hurt caused: The offender may be imprisoned for up to 15 years and fined.
• Hurt caused: Offender would be liable either for:
o Life imprisonment and caning; or
o Up to 20 years imprisonment and a fine and/or caning.

Reducing Murder Charge to Culpable Homicide not amounting to Murder Charge

If one or more of the special exceptions to murder mentioned in section 300 of the Penal Code can be successfully proven, a charge of murder can be reduced to culpable homicide not amounting to murder. The following are among the exceptions:

• When the offender had lost control of his or her actions as a result of a severe and unforeseen provocation;
• When a murder occurs as a consequence of a sudden fight and the perpetrator does not take advantage of the situation or act cruelly;
• When the perpetrator had the right to self-defence yet exceeded it to murder someone;
• When the perpetrator was acting in good faith and exceeded the power of a public servant;
• When the offender had a mental impairment, which meant that his or her mental capacity was seriously affected;
• When a woman murders her child while the child is under the age of 12 months;
• When the victim is over the age of 18 and has consented to the risk of being killed;

Cases concerning Culpable Homicide and Murder

1) Public Prosecutor v P Mageswaran and another appeal [2019] 1 SLR 1253; [2019] SGCA 22

The victim was a friend of the accused’s family. The accused went to the victim’s flat to borrow money on the day of the crime. He requested a loan from the victim to cover the deposit on his new property, but she informed him that she did not have the funds. The accused explored the rooms for valuables while the victim was in the bathroom and ultimately discovered a box of jewelry. He decided to steal the box, but he was caught red-handed by the victim, who tried to stop him. He begged her to hand up the package, but she refused. The accused strangled and choked the victim to death during the altercation. The accused’s sole defence during the trial was that he acted with the knowledge that his actions were likely to result in death. Under section 304(b) of the Penal Code, a conviction on these grounds might have resulted in a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail. The prosecution tried to establish that the accused acted with the intent to kill. Under section 304(a) of the Penal Code, a conviction on these grounds carries a potential penalty of life imprisonment or a sentence of up to 20 years in jail. The judge found the defendant guilty of violating section 304(a) and sentenced him to 18 years in jail. The prosecution filed an appeal, seeking the maximum punishment of life imprisonment under section 304(a). The accused challenged both his conviction and sentence, claiming that he should have been found guilty under section 304(b) instead. Both the appeals were dismissed by the court after hearing both the parties.

2) Teo Ghim Heng v Public Prosecutor [2022] SGCA 10

Teo Ghim Heng, who was convicted in the High Court of murdering his wife, Choong Pei Shan, and his daughter, Teo Zi Ning, filed an appeal. The court decided that the appellant’s arguments of diminished responsibility and grave and sudden provocation were insufficient to justify his conviction. The Judge further dismissed the appellant’s claim that the legislative provisions under which he was convicted were unconstitutional because they violated the separation of powers doctrine and/or were in breach of Article 12 of Singapore’s Constitution. After hearing the parties in the appeal, the court upheld the appellant’s conviction and sentence and dismissed the appeal.

3) Daryati v Public Prosecutor [2022] SGCA 30

The appellant was appealing her conviction for the murder of Mdm Seow Kim Choo under section 300(c) of the Penal Code. At the time of the incident, the appellant was an Indonesian national who worked as a domestic servant for the deceased and her family. The question on appeal was whether the appellant was entitled to the diminished responsibility defence, and, more specifically, whether the appellant was suffering from chronic depression illness with the intermittent depressive disorder at the time of the murder. After reviewing the submissions, the court concluded that the Judge did not make an error in ruling that the appellant was not entitled to the diminished responsibility defence. The components of section 300(c) Penal Code offence, as indicated in the charge, had also been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, according to the court. The conviction of the appellant was upheld. Because neither party challenged the sentence, the court upheld the judge’s decision to sentence the offender to life in prison.


What is culpable homicide Singapore? ›

Culpable homicide not amounting to murder occurs when an offender causes the death of another person with the intention to inflict bodily injury likely to cause death or with the knowledge that his or her act was likely to cause death.

What's the difference between murder and culpable homicide? ›

Murder is committed when the accused has killed someone with an intention to kill, or acted with 'wicked recklessness'. Culpable homicide may be committed when the accused has caused loss of life through wrongful conduct, but there was no intention to kill or no 'wicked recklessness'.

What happens if you commit murder in Singapore? ›

Capital punishment is a legal penalty in Singapore. Executions are carried out by long drop hanging, and usually take place at dawn. 33 offences— including murder, drug trafficking, terrorism, use of firearms and kidnapping — warrant the death penalty under Singapore law.

What is the punishment for culpable homicide? ›

—Whoever commits culpable homicide not amounting to murder shall be punished with 1[imprisonment for life], or imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine, if the act by which the death is caused is done with the intention of causing death, or of causing ...

What is culpable homicide in simple words? ›

299. Culpable homicide.—Whoever causes death by doing an act with the intention of causing death, or with the intention of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, or with the knowledge that he is likely by such act to cause death, commits the offence of culpable homicide.

What is culpable homicide with example? ›

Section 299 of the Indian Penal Code deals with Culpable Homicide and it is stated as follows – “Whoever causes death by doing an act with the intention of causing death , or with the knowledge that he is likely by such act to cause death, commits the offence of Culpable Homicide.”

What are the three types of culpable homicide? ›

Box 2: Culpable homicide and the law. Section 222(4) of the Criminal Code of Canada (the Code) includes three types of culpable homicide: Murder, manslaughter and infanticide.

What are the 4 elements of culpable crime? ›

Proving all of the requisite elements of a crime is necessary in establishing criminal liability. Generally, a crime consists of a guilty mental state, guilty conduct, concurrence, and causation. The mental state and conduct must occur in unison in order to prove guilt.

Is culpable homicide always murder? ›

Exception 1. —When culpable homicide is not murder. —Culpable homicide is not murder if the offender, whilst deprived of the power of self-control by grave and sudden provocation, causes the death of the person who gave the provocation or causes the death of any other person by mistake or accident. First.

Are you innocent until proven guilty in Singapore? ›

Presumption of innocence

Another hallmark of the judicial system is the presumption of innocence, a legal principle that any person accused of a crime is innocent until proven guilty. That's why the courts have generally not objected to letting an accused person's identity be known throughout the proceedings.

How many murders in Singapore per year? ›

Singapore murder/homicide rate for 2019 was 0.21, a 32.25% increase from 2018. Singapore murder/homicide rate for 2018 was 0.16, a 18.89% decline from 2017.
Singapore Murder/Homicide Rate 1990-2022.
Singapore Murder/Homicide Rate - Historical Data
YearPer 100K PopulationAnnual % Change
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How long is life sentence in Singapore? ›

A sentence of life imprisonment in Singapore means the offender will be imprisoned for the duration of his or her natural life, said Withers KhattarWong's Ms Chin. However, the Prisons Act 1993 provides that after such an offender serves 20 years in jail, the Minister of Home Affairs must review the case.

How many types of culpable homicide are there? ›

Culpable homicide is punishable by law and is further divided into two categories: Culpable homicide amounting to murder. Culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

What are the elements of culpable homicide? ›

The following are the essential elements of culpable homicide:
  • a person must be dead;
  • the death must have been caused by the act of another person; and.
  • the act causing death must have been done with:
9 Feb 2022

Can you be charged with culpable homicide? ›

Culpable homicide is the unlawful negligent killing of a fellow human being. As such it is in many respects a 'residual' crime being the verdict prosecutors may expect when they are unable to prove the intention to kill when prosecuting for murder.

Who is a culpable person? ›

(kʌlpəbəl ) adjective. If someone or their conduct is culpable, they are responsible for something wrong or bad that has happened.

What is the full meaning of culpable? ›

/ˈkʌl.pə.bəl/ deserving to be blamed or considered responsible for something bad: He was held culpable (= blamed) for all that had happened. Synonym. blameworthy formal.

What is culpable homicide in criminal law? ›

Culpable homicide is the unlawful negligent killing of another human being. Defamation. Defamation consists of the unlawful and intentional publication of matter that impairs another person's reputation. Defeating or obstructing the course of justice.

What is an example of culpable? ›

Culpable is typically used in serious legal contexts involving crimes. The noun culpability refers to the guilt or blame that is deserved for some crime or wrongdoing. Example: The CEO should be held criminally culpable for the negligence that resulted in the deaths of several employees.

What is the difference between culpable homicide and death by negligence? ›

It all depends upon the facts and circumstances of the case whether such a death would be characterized as murder or culpable homicide not amounting to murder or death by negligence. The death of a person may be caused with or without an intention or knowledge. Similarly, it may be caused by reckless and rash conduct.

What does culpable mean in law? ›

Primary tabs. Culpable means censurable or blameworthy. When an individual is said to be “culpable,” what is meant is that s/he is legally responsible (liable) for a criminal act. S/he is guilty.

What are culpable crimes? ›

Under section 222(5) of the Criminal Code, a person commits culpable homicide when he causes the death of a human being, by means of an unlawful act; by criminal negligence; by causing the victim, by threats or fear of violence or by deception, to do anything that causes their death; or.

What are the types of culpability? ›

Subsection- (2) defines each of the four kinds- of culpability- purpose, knowledge, recklessness and negligence.

What is the main source of crime? ›

Family factors may be the main reason individuals get involved in crime but drug dependence may be the main distinguishing factor between those who offend frequently and those who offend only occasionally.

What are the main 3 factors of crime? ›

The Crime Triangle identifies three factors that create a criminal offense. Desire of a criminal to commit a crime; Target of the criminal's desire; and the Opportunity for the crime to be committed. You can break up the Crime Triangle by not giving the criminal the Opportunity.

Is guilty the same as culpable? ›

guilty implies responsibility for or consciousness of crime, sin, or, at the least, grave error or misdoing. culpable is weaker than guilty and is likely to connote malfeasance or errors of ignorance, omission, or negligence.

Is homicide always unlawful? ›

Homicide is nothing but the action of killing of murdering someone. All homicides are not regarded as the offences. It is not a necessary factor that it will always be a criminal act.

What evidence is inadmissible Singapore? ›

Hearsay evidence, which refers to the assertions of persons made out of court” whether orally or in documentary form or in the form of conduct tendered to prove the facts which they refer to (i.e. facts in issue and relevant facts) are inadmissible unless they fall within the scope of the established exceptions in the ...

Can you hit someone if they provoke you Singapore? ›

It is important to note that the sentence above is for a single charge and if you are guilty of multiple charges the fine and the jail term may be longer. Can you hit someone if they provoke you? Yes, only if you hit someone in self-defence.

Can you fight back if someone hits you Singapore? ›

The right to private defence can be used even if there is a danger that an innocent person will be wounded or killed if the right is exercised, according to section 100 of the Penal Code. Even if there is a risk of injury to an innocent person, the law allows for private defence against deadly assault.

What is the highest crime rate in Singapore? ›

Yishun north is allegedly the most crime-prone area. It had the most loan shark harassment cases – 232 cases in 2016, the highest number in Singapore.
Singaporean neighbourhoods with the most crime.
NeighbourhoodBukit Timah
Number of Crimes 201651
Average Number of Crimes (2012 - 2016)69.4
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3 Nov 2022

Why is crime so low in Singapore? ›

Strict punishments as a deterrent for committing crimes

Singapore is able to keep its crime rate low by enforcing strict laws and punishments on those who break the law, as well as having a sophisticated system of surveillance.

Is Singapore safe from crime? ›

Top Hotel Collections. Singapore is one of the safest and cleanest cities to visit in Asia. The country has a very low crime rate, and citizens feel very safe. This is also one of the cleanest cities in the world, and most people feel absolutely safe to venture out on the streets at night.

When was the last death penalty in Singapore? ›

November 22, 2010. Nagaenthran was found guilty of drug trafficking and sentenced to death by hanging. The amount surpassed the 15-gram threshold for heroin over which convicted traffickers must receive the death pentalty.

How long is 1 life sentence? ›

A one-life sentence imposes an obligation on a defendant to serve 15 to 25 years in prison until the eligibility of parole. The sentence depends on the gravity of the crime and on the jurisdiction in which the defendant is tried. Parole is usually granted to individuals who have displayed good behavior.

What is the shortest life sentence? ›

What is the shortest life sentence? There are multiple states where a prisoner under certain circumstances can become eligible for parole after 2 years served of a life sentence. Often these variable life sentences are given for crimes that require additional rehabilitation or stricter parole.

What is culpable vs non culpable homicide? ›

Homicide. In the Criminal Code, homicide is classified as either culpable or non-culpable. A non-culpable homicide is not an offense and includes justified uses of force by police or military as well as self-defense by civilians. Culpable homicide has three categories: murder, manslaughter or infanticide.

What's the difference between culpable and responsible? ›

"Culpability means, first and foremost, direct involvement in the wrongdoing, such as through participation or instruction", as compared with responsibility merely arising from "failure to supervise or to maintain adequate controls or ethical culture".

Is self-defense culpable homicide? ›

Culpable homicide is where the accused is held legally responsible as the death can be caused by a person intentionally or unintentionally whereas non-culpable homicide is when accused is not held legally responsible as it includes death caused by self-defense.

Are all murders culpable homicide? ›

All culpable homicides are murders, but not all culpable homicides are murders. So the distinction is between culpable homicide that amounts to murder and culpable homicide that does not amount to murder. The sole distinction between culpable homicide and murder is the degree of purpose and knowledge involved.

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