A Guide To Voluntarily Causing Hurt Criminal Offences In Singapore

A Guide To Voluntarily Causing Hurt Criminal Offences In Singapore

Before moving forward to the criminal offence itself, it’s helpful to look at the meaning of “hurt” in the criminal law context. “Hurt” is defined as causing bodily pain, disease or infirmity to any person under Section 319 of the Penal Code.

This is a wide definition and encompasses physical injuries as well as psychological harm. More serious forms of “hurt” would be defined as “grievous hurt”, which is defined under Section 320 of the Penal Code. For the full spectrum of what is designated as “grievous hurt”, please head to the bottom of this page.

Understanding Voluntarily Causing Hurt Offences

Voluntarily Causing Hurt offences refer to acts committed with the intention to cause hurt (as defined above) to another person. By criminalizing such harm, Singapore's legal system aims to hold individuals accountable for their actions and deter such behaviour in society.

What Are The Elements Of Voluntarily Causing Hurt?

Firstly, there has to be an act that causes hurt to any person. Secondly, this act of causing hurt has to be done either with intention to cause hurt or with knowledge that hurt will likely be caused.

These elements are for the elements of a charge under Section 321 of the Penal Code but there are other aggravated forms of Voluntarily Causing Hurt as well, some of which will be discussed below.

Sentencing Framework for Voluntarily Causing Hurt

Under Section 323 of the Penal Code, punishment for the standard Voluntarily Causing Hurt offence shall be imprisonment for a term up to 3 years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

The Singapore Courts have taken up the following sentencing framework, with reference to Low Song Chye v PP [2019] 5 SLR 526 (“Low Song Chye”), which takes into account the extent of harm that was caused to the victims.

However, it should be noted that in Niranjan s/o Muthupalani v PP (MA No. 9192 of 2022), the High Court endorsed a modified Low Song Chye framework where the sentencing bands were extrapolated up by a factor of 1.5 times (to account for Parliamentary intention in increasing the maximum imprisonment term of Section 323 PC offences from 2 years to 3) so this should be taken into account accordingly when looking at the table below.

Band Exent of Harm Common Sentencing Position
1 Low harm wherein no visible injury or only minor injuries were sustained by the victim Fine or imprisonments up to 4 weeks
2 Moderate harm wherein the victim will have short hospitalization, or a significant amount of medical leave is given to the victim Between 4 to 6 weeks imprisonment
3 Serious harm wherein the victim suffered injuries that are permanent in nature or requires surgery Between 6 months to 2 years of imprisonment

Voluntarily Causing Hurt by Dangerous Weapons or Means

An aggravated form of Voluntarily Causing Hurt can be found under Section 324 of the Penal Code - Voluntarily Causing Hurt by Dangerous Weapons or Means.

There is a wide definition of dangerous weapons or means here. Section 324 provides that
“any instrument for shooting, stabbing or cutting, or any instrument which, used as a weapon of offence, is likely to cause death, or by means of fire or any heated substance, or by means of any poison or any corrosive substance, or by means of any explosive substance, or by means of any substance which it is harmful to the human body to inhale, to swallow, or to receive into the blood, or by means of any animal” can be a “dangerous weapon” or “means”.

Common examples of dangerous weapons as can be seen from the cases in Singapore include, but are not limited to:-

  • Beer bottles
  • Multi-Purpose Knives
  •  Fire
  •  Hammers
  •  Batons
  •  Scissors

Sentencing Framework for Voluntarily Causing Hurt by Dangerous Weapons or Means

Under Section 324 of the Penal Code, punishment for Voluntarily Causing Hurt by Dangerous Weapons or Means shall be imprisonment for a term up to 7 years, a fine, caning or any combination of these punishments.

In Singapore, the Courts have laid down a a 3-step sentencing approach for Section 324 Penal Code cases in line with Ng Soon Kim v PP [2020] 3 SLR 1097.

  1. Step 1: To consider the indicative sentence if the charge had been under Section 323 of the Penal Code, having regard only to the harm caused;
  2. Step 2: To consider a suitable uplift for the dangerous means used; and
  3. Step 3: To adjust the sentence according to the aggravating and mitigating factors.

Voluntarily Causing Grievous Hurt

Another aggravated form of Voluntarily Causing Hurt is that found under Section 322 of the Penal Code – Voluntarily Causing Grievous Hurt

The following kinds of hurt are designated as “grievous”.

(a) emasculation;

(aa) death;

(b) permanent privation of the sight of either eye;

(c) permanent privation of the hearing of either ear;

(d) privation of any member or joint;

(e) destruction or permanent impairing of the powers of any member or joint;

(f) permanent disfiguration of the head or face;

(g) fracture or dislocation of a bone;

(h) any hurt which endangers life, or which causes the sufferer to be, during the space of 20 days, in severe bodily pain, or unable to follow his ordinary pursuits;

(i) penetration of the vagina or anus, as the case may be, of a person without that person’s consent, which causes severe bodily pain.

Generally, the provisions in the Penal Code which provide for situations where grievous hurt has been found attract heavier penalties against the accused party.

Commonly Cited Defences To The Group Of Voluntarily Causing Hurt Offences


Can you claim provocation as a defence? Generally, the use of “grave and sudden provocation” as a partial defence has a high threshold and successful uses of this defence within the framework of the Voluntarily Causing Hurt offences tend to be rare.

In such situations, the accused party may end up being convicted under different provisions, such as Section 334, Section 334A and Section 335 of the Penal Code.

However, even if “grave and sudden provocation” cannot be successfully raised as a partial defence, it is possible (and usually more likely) that the same facts of provocation can be considered as a mitigating factor instead in assessing the sentence of the accused party.

Private Defence

The basic premise of the right of private defence is set out in Section 96 of the Penal Code as follows:-

Nothing is an offence which is done in the exercise of the right of private defence.

In order to exercise the right of private defence, the accused has to demonstrate on a balance of probabilities, the following pre-conditions and conditions:-

  1. an offence affecting the human body had been committed against the accused;
  2. there was no time to seek the protection of public authorities;
  3. the accused reasonably apprehended danger due to an attempt or threat by the victim to commit an offence affecting the body; and
  4. the harm caused to the assailant was reasonably necessary in private defence.


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Filed under: Criminal Defence
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