Tweaked Environmental Public Health Act with harsher penalties for litterbugs passed

Woo Sian Boon Today Online 18 Feb 14;

Recalcitrant litterbugs can be fined up to S$10,000 under the amended Environmental Public Health Act.

The changes to the Act, which were passed in Parliament yesterday, will allow maximum penalties for littering-related offences to be doubled from S$1,000 to S$2,000 for first-time offenders.

Fines will be increased to S$4,000 for second-time offenders and S$10,000 for third and subsequent convictions. This is the first time fines for first- and second-time offenders have been revised since 1987.

While Members of Parliament (MPs) yesterday expressed support for the move, they also called for more to be done to stop people from littering. Some suggested investing in advanced technology, such as DNA testing, to nab litterbugs and issuing corrective work order for offenders in their neighbourhood.

Several MPs also wanted to know how the authorities would deal with repeat offenders who are mentally ill. Dr Teo Ho Pin (Bukit Panjang) suggested giving police officers and authorised personnel the power to arrest mentally ill litterbugs and send them for medical treatment, so the root cause of the problem could be addressed.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan told Parliament yesterday that the number of complaints received for littering had increased by almost 50 per cent last year from 2010. However, he pointed out that enforcement had been a particularly difficult undertaking as litterbugs are rarely caught in the act.

For example, there were more than 1,300 complaints on high-rise littering last year, but the National Environment Agency managed to prosecute only 19 offenders.

The amendments to the Act would facilitate investigations by allowing police and authorised officers to request for information which might lead to the identification of the litterbugs, said Dr Balakrishnan.

“By simply making it clear to everyone that, if you are irresponsible and you litter, the probability of you being identified and prosecuted is high, I’m hoping that this increased deterrence would, in fact, mean (fewer) people being prosecuted,” he added. WOO SIAN BOON