EXPANDING SENTENCING OPTIONS FOR WILDLIFE FEEDING OFFENCE TO INCLUDE MANDATORY TREATMENT ORDER AND COMMUNITY WORK ORDER

In our estate, we do have a problem with persons who persist in illegal wildlife feeding even though they have been advised not to do so. This causes a proliferation in the population of wildlife, particularly pigeons. In my engagement with NParks, the Government agency responsible for taking action against such persons, I was told that a good number of the persistent feeders have psychiatric issues.

Currently, when these persons are charged in Court for the offence of wildlife feeding, the Court may only impose a sentence of fine on them. For these reasons, I filed a PQ suggesting to the Hon Minister for National Development that the sentencing options be enlarged to include the imposition of a Mandatory Treatment Order (which will require these persons to get psychiatric treatment subject to fulfillment of certain conditions) and Community Work Order which, in my view, carries a more deterrent effect that just imposing a fine.

The Minister, however, was not supportive of my suggestion. He pointed out that there are limitations to the sentencing options I suggested. Respectfully though, I disagree and will pursue the matter with the Ministry. The current situation caused by the persistent feeders continues to cause concerns amongst our residents and needs addressing.

My question and the Minister’s response are set out below.

EXPANDING SENTENCING OPTIONS FOR WILDLIFE FEEDING OFFENCE TO INCLUDE MANDATORY TREATMENT ORDER AND COMMUNITY WORK ORDER

Mr. Murali Pillai asked the Minister for National Development whether sentencing options for the offence of wildlife feeding under section 5A of the Wildlife Act can be extended to include the mandatory treatment order and community work order to deal with the prevalence of repeat offenders and offenders with psychiatric issues.

Mr. Desmond Lee: NParks adopts a holistic, multi-pronged approach to tackle illegal wildlife feeding. For repeat offenders or those with psychiatric issues, NParks partners Town Councils, MSO, PA, and the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) to find out their motivations and to discourage them from continuing to feed wildlife. NParks also partners the AIC to offer nature-based activities to these feeders. For example, since January 2020, NParks has engaged repeat feeders of wild birds and offered them activities such as community gardening and bird-watching, to discourage them from illegal bird-feeding. In addition, the AIC offers mental health assistance to repeat offenders with underlying conditions, where appropriate. Such engagement efforts have enhanced NParks’ management of illegal wildlife feeding.

Sentencing options such as the mandatory treatment order (MTO) or community work order (CWO) may not always be suitable in dealing with repeat wildlife feeders or those with psychiatric issues. For example, an MTO is only appropriate if the offender and his or her psychiatric condition are suitable for treatment, and the psychiatric condition of the offender is a contributing factor to the offence. As for the CWO, it may be challenging for elderly offenders with other health or mobility conditions to perform CWO sentences.

NParks will continue to review its wildlife management efforts and take a reasonable, multi-pronged approach to address issues of wildlife feeding.

Member of Parliament for Bukit Batok SMC, Advisor to Bukit Batok SMC GROs.