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Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) – Singapore Police Force (SPF) Crimes Against Children Regional Forum 2023

The Singapore Police Force (SPF) has partnered the United States Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to organise the inaugural HSI-SPF Crimes Against Children Regional Forum held in Singapore from 11 to 13 July 2023.

The opening ceremony on 11 July 2023 was graced by Guests-of-Honour Ms Sun Xueling, Minister of State (MOS), Ministry of Home Affairs & Ministry of Social and Family Development and His Excellency Mr Jonathan Kaplan, the Ambassador of the United States of America to Singapore. In her opening address, MOS Sun Xueling highlighted Singapore’s comprehensive approach to enforce, investigate and rehabilitate to deal with the threat of online child sexual exploitation and abuse in the following areas:

  1. Strengthening legislative levers to criminalise offending behaviours and block access to child sexual abuse material
    Singapore regularly reviews our laws to ensure that they remain effective. For instance, the Penal Code amendments took effect in January 2020 where new offences were introduced to criminalise the production, distribution, advertising and possession of child abuse materials. These amendments allow for prosecution of Singapore citizens and permanent residents, who commit such acts abroad. More recently, the Online Criminal Harms Act was passed in July 2023 to empower law enforcement agencies to issue disabling, account restriction, access blocking and app removal directions, to online services, other entities or individuals, when specified criminal offences are committed, which include sexual offences such as the distribution of child sexual abuse material (CSAM).

  2. Strengthening enforcement efforts and implementing effective rehabilitation
    Since the Penal Code amendments were operationalised in January 2020, the SPF has stepped up on enforcement efforts against offenders who deal with CSAM. Since January 2020, the SPF have arrested more than 120 offenders through various coordinated operations. After the completion of preliminary investigations, CSAM offenders are also referred to the Home Team Community Assistance and Referral Scheme (HT CARES), where trained social workers will conduct social triaging to understand the root cause of the offending behaviour and refer these offenders to an appropriate social service agency for counselling. Pre-sentencing rehabilitation of offenders of CSAM is not common internationally, but is necessary and helpful to minimise recidivism.

  3. International cooperation
    The SPF is an active contributor to INTERPOL’s International Child Sexual Exploitation Database (ICSE). The SPF provides strong support in victim identification and locating of perpetrators of CSAM seized from local offenders and those surfaced by other foreign law enforcement agencies (LEAs) through ICSE. Singapore also adopted the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection of Children from all Forms of Online Exploitation and Abuse in 2019 and joined the WeProtect Global Alliance in 2022, an international coalition of governments, companies, civil society organisations and international organisations established to tackle online-facilitated child sexual exploitation and abuse. This signals our commitment to contribute to international efforts in protecting children from sexual exploitation.

The HSI-SPF Crimes Against Children Regional Forum 2023 was attended by representatives from the ASEAN region. The regional Forum aims to harness the investigative assets of countries in Southeast Asia to combat the ever-growing risk of sexual abuse and exploitation faced by children in the region through sharing of enforcement strategies and investigative practices.

No one country can combat the threat of child sexual exploitation and abuse alone. Strong collaborations with foreign law enforcement agencies are critical in our fight against online child sexual exploitation and abuse. This is due to the transnational nature of these offences, where offenders leverage the latest technologies such as social media, live-streaming applications, video-sharing sites and the dark web to operate across borders. These offenders may be part of organised criminal groups which run sophisticated transnational operations which are not easy to uncover or dismantle. The success of our efforts to identify and locate child victims and to bring perpetrators to justice depends on our close international cooperation with foreign LEAs. In addition, with the proliferation of Internet and social media which has facilitated CSAM, government efforts alone are not sufficient to tackle such crimes. Online platforms have an important role in establishing robust mechanisms to protect children against harmful online content, and to swiftly remove any child sexual exploitation and abuse material to prevent their further dissemination.

Head of Specialised Crime Branch of the Criminal Investigation Department, Superintendent Lim Hao Jun said, “The inaugural HSI-SPF Crimes against Children Regional Forum 2023 is a useful platform to bring together foreign law enforcement agencies from Southeast Asia to strengthen our investigative strategies and practices in the fight against the threat of child sexual exploitation and abuse in the region. We will continue to work with our foreign law enforcement counterparts and strategic stakeholders to explore avenues to enhance the effectiveness of our enforcement efforts to bring perpetrators to justice.”



Ms Sun Xueling, Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs & Ministry of Social and Family Development and His Excellency Mr Jonathan Kaplan, the Ambassador of the United States of America to Singapore demonstrating the ‘Signal for Help’ sign


11 July 2023 @ 4:00 PM
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