Is the punishment in Singapore appropriate for cases of graffiti. Should graffiti writers from other countries respect Singaporean law

Assignment Requirements


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Plan and write an essay which uses only the research material provided on page 15 to address the topic. In the previous two assignments, you mastered effective sentence and paragraph structure. This assignment builds on these skills, asking you to apply your knowledge of essay structure and ability to incorporate source material, as discussed in lectures and workshops. Along with effective academic style and essay structure, you will be assessed on your ability to analyse and synthesize research, rather than your ability to undertake research. Therefore, the research material has been provided for you in the Assessment Pack on LearnJCU.


Begin by analysing the question and defining define all terms within it. Read the material in the Assessment Materials Pack to decide how you will answer. Plan an essay that addresses all aspects of the question, and which uses the material to support your answer, either by direct quote, or by paraphrase or summary. You are not required to use all the material; in fact, please do not. You should consider the material in its entirety, then select a least four sources that support the points you want to make.


The essay should be a logical argument. Begin with an introduction that gives background, states your thesis and outlines paragraph topics. Ensure each paragraph has a theme sentence and develops a single aspect of your argument. Finish with a conclusion that summarises the principal points, and restates the thesis more specifically and in new words. The essay should be written, as with the earlier two assignments, in appropriate academic style.


Your essay should conform to the structural and linguistic requirements outlined in the Textbook and discussed in class. Quotes and citations should be smoothly introduced, properly punctuated, and correctly cited in APA style. Include an APA style References list at the end of your essay on a separate page. Follow the citation methods outlined in the Library guide on APA formatting:


Refer to the assessment criteria below for this assignment, and edit your assignment carefully to be sure it addresses these criteria. Use 12-point Times New Roman font and double space with appropriate margins. Print your work on single-sided sheets of paper only.



Is the punishment for vandalism in Singapore appropriate for cases of graffiti? Should graffiti writers from other countries respect Singaporean law?




In 2011, the Singapore government arrested a Swiss man and issued a warrant for the arrest of a British man for vandalism after the pair allegedly broke into a transit depot and defaced a train with graffiti. Singapore’s judiciary system, which the nation inherited from the days of British colonial rule and developed to maintain strict order in a densely populated city-state, is notoriously hard on crime. Vandalism in Singapore can carry a fine of nearly £1,000 or three years in jail and three to eight strokes of a cane. Some international onlookers feel this level of punishment is disproportionate to the crime of graffiti; indeed, the British subject who has now returned to England continues to evade arrest on these grounds. Without needing a background in law, and simply using the material below, present a balanced argument that ultimately concludes whether this punishment is fair to these foreigners. In so doing, assess the general reasons why this Singaporean law should or should not be respected by these internationals.


You do not need to use all of the material provided, but you may not use anything other than the material provided. All the material has been filtered to exclude non-academic material, so you can use any of it to shape your argument. Do not gather material from outside of these sources. Do not research the debate online or elsewhere. When you express your opinion, make sure it is supported with evidence from one or more of the sources. Before you begin to plan your essay, read all the source material thoroughly. Use a good dictionary or Google to look up words or ideas that you do not understand, not for further research, but for clarification.


The material reflects the kind of sources you are likely to encounter as a researcher. If some sources seem too difficult, feel free to skip them. Research questions can rarely be answered with textbook answers; that is why they are considered worthy of academic research.


  • Ensure you do not rely too heavily on a single source. Your aim is to present a balanced and well-organised synthesis of sources relevant to your thesis. You need to quote selectively, and paraphrase and summarise strategically. You need to make quotes part of your own sentence structures (while indicating a source’s words with quotation marks), introduce paraphrases or summaries with the source’s name, and ensure that all quotes, paraphrases and summaries support points of your own.


Essay source material


1. “Urban Graffiti: Crime, Control, and Resistance” Youth & Society September 1995 vol. 27 no. 1 73-92


Recently, a new style of youthful graffiti has emerged in cities throughout the United States and beyond…those who produce this graffiti resist the increasing segregation and control of urban environments and… undermine the efforts of legal and political authorities to control them…this collective production of graffiti not only confronts and resists existing arrangements but constructs alternative social, cultural, and economic arrangements as well. [73]


[S]ome criminologists working within neo-Marxist perspectives have come to question both the wisdom, and the accuracy of locating resistance in youthful behaviour and crime. Whereas Marxist criminologists like Wenger and Bonomo (1993) reject the revolutionary potential in crime, others (Platt, 1978) criticise the inflated accounting of crime’s rebellious dimensions. Others reject what they see as the Left’s romanticising of street crime as resistance and its inattention to its negative consequences. [74]


[Y]et in a remarkable variety of world settings, kids (and others) employ particular forms of graffiti as a means of resisting particular constellations of legal, political, and religious authority. [76]


Contemporary graffiti writing occurs in an urban environment increasingly defined by the segregation and control of social space. As Schiller (1989), Davis (1992) and Guterson (1993) have shown, major cities today are systematically fractured by ethnic, class, and consumer segregation—segregation built into skyscrapers and skyways, freeways and transit routes, walled residential enclaves and secured shopping malls, private streets and parks. The caretakers of these physically segregated cities control (or destroy) public space and public communities through privatization and physical insulation, and they employ extensive public and private police power and sophisticated control technologies to enforce their special restrictions. Young people who wish to work or wander in these environments face, in addition to these spatial controls, an increasingly aggressive criminalization of their activities by local and state authorities. [78]


If, as alluded to earlier, authority and resistance dance together, the next moment in this tango of urban control and graffiti writing is not difficult to anticipate: The dame legal structures, policing powers, and technological safeguards that regulate the city at large are in turn brought down on graffiti writers, with a vengeance. The array of control technologies and techniques aligned against graffiti writing is itself impressive. Today, legal authorities and corporate sponsors in Los Angeles, San Berardino CA, New York, Denver, Las Vegas, For Worth, and other cities create police and citizen surveillance teams armed with two-way radios, home video cameras, remote control infrared video cameras, and night-vision goggles; send out anti- graffiti helicopter patrols, secure freeway signs and bridges with razor wire and commercial buildings with special graffiti-resistant coatings; and arrange toll-free telephone hotlines for watchful residents and motorists…They also use U.S. Marines in anti-graffiti operations, deploy undercover transit and police officers in the guise of high school students and journalists, stake out popular graffiti-writing areas, and set up sophisticated sting operations to apprehend graffiti writers and stop those who sell spray paint to them… [84]


These sorts of physical control are backed by growing militancy among anti-graffiti activists and by severe legal sanctions. New York’s new police commissioner targets graffiti and other ‘quality of life’ crimes; Los Angeles’s mayor Richard Riordan campaigns aggressively against graffiti and now recommends boot camps as punishment for writers; another Los Angeles mayoral candidate suggests “chop[ping] a few fingers off” (Simon, 1993, July 9, p.B3); and Denver’s mayor deflects a recall campaign with a vitriolic anti-graffiti campaign of his own (Ferrell, 1993a; “These Guys,” 1994). A California assemblyman introduces a bill requiring that kids convicted of writing graffiti be publicly paddled; and in St. Louis, an alerman proposes public caning (Bailey, 1994; Gillam, 1994; Henderson, 1994). Other antigraffiti campaigners in Los Angeles and Denver cheer suggestions of lopping off hands… [84]


But for writers, the most remarkable and insidious form of resistance to increased repression Is not a practical measure but a pleasurable response. This is the adrenalin rush. Writers consistently report…that their experience of tagging and piecing is defined by the incandescent excitement, the adrenalin rush, that results from creating their art in a dangerous and illegal environment—and that heightened legal and police pressure therefore heightens this adrenalin as well. In Los Angeles, Creator says, “I bomb because I like the chase, the getting up [tagging] without getting caught…Catch me if you can” (Quintanilla, 1993, p.E1). [86]


These small communities of writers also contribute to the larger communities of which they are a part. In Denver, writers have painted pieces commenting on local politics, war, and AIDS, and have been commissioned to paint drug awareness and ‘stay in school’ murals. And in NYC, drug dealers and others pay writers to paint large “Rest in Peaces”—murals that commemorate those who have died on the streets (Marriott, 1993; Sanchez, 1993). Clearly, graffiti writers and crews serve as the folk artists of urban communities…As Lady Pink says, in recalling the early years of hip pop graffiti, “We were like sixties radicals, rebelling against the system. I was dodging bullets in the service of folk art, bringing art to the people” (Siegel, 1993, .p.68). [88]


2. Ross, W. The Right and the Good Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1930.


The duty of obeying the laws of one’s country arises partly (as Socrates contends in the Crito) from the duty of gratitude for the benefits one has received from it; partly from the implicit promise to obey which seems to be involved in permanent residence in a country whose laws we know we are expected to obey, and still more clearly involved when we ourselves invoke the protection of its laws . . . ; and partly (if we are fortunate in our country) from the fact that its laws are potent instruments for the general good. [87]


3. D. Patterson, ed., Companion to the Philosophy of Law and Legal Theory, (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996).



Few issues in jurisprudence have received so much attention in recent years as whether citizens have a distinctive moral duty to obey the law. Yet the differences among the disputants might well seem slender to the unprofessional eye. No one holds that the duty is absolute: even its most passionate advocates allow that it is sometimes morally permissible to disobey the law, as when abolitionists aided runaway slaves before the American Civil War. But neither does anyone advocate open or frequent disobedience. Those who doubt the supposed duty yet hold that we very often have a strong moral reason to do what the law requires independently of its commands, e.g., not to assault, cheat or rob others. The doubters allow that we are obligated to obey whenever the law has established patterns of conduct that are dangerous to depart from, such as driving to the left in Great Britain. They believe that disobedience is permissible only when there is no independent moral reason to obey or when the weight of independent reasons favors disobedience; and they do not suppose that in reasonably just societies these conditions obtain often. Finally, those who are sceptical about the duty of obedience nonetheless prize the great social benefits that quite obviously can only be achieved through government; and they believe that one which is reasonably just deserves its citizens’ cooperation and support. It therefore seems probable that the putative duty’s advocates and disbelievers alike would virtually always agree in their judgments of particular illegal conduct–or at least that any differences between them would not flow from their disagreement about the philosophical issue.

Despite the debate’s apparent lack of practical significance, many philosophers and academic lawyers yet disagree hotly about whether there is a “prima facie” duty to obey the law. [465]


As a positive argument against the supposed general obligation to obey the law, we have observed that contemporary law comprises a very comprehensive scheme of social regulation, most of which undoubtedly is very necessary to the public weal, but which also contains (as Lord Devlin put the point) “many fussy regulations whose breach it would be pedantic to call immoral” (1965 p. 27). Contemporary landlord-tenant law is rife with examples: e.g., Mass. Gen. Laws. c. 186 15B requires landlords who accept security deposits to keep them in interest bearing escrow accounts in Massachusetts banks. A Massachusetts landlord who for reasons of convenience places a security deposit in a Vermont bank will pay triple damages if sued by his tenant. His practice is imprudent; but would anyone say that it is morally wrong? [466]


4. Boll, Alfred. “Nationality and Obligations of Loyalty in International and Municpal Law” (2005) 24 Australian Year Book of International Law 37. Accessed 5 December 2011.


Prior to the United Nations (UN) Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [27] it was possible for states to maintain that while they might be responsible to other states for ill-treatment of foreign nationals, they had unfettered power over their own nationals. The classical approach of international law to the state-individual relationship was one of basically unconstrained power of the state. This is no longer the case. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and universal and regional systems of international human rights treaties have limited states’ power in a way that would have been inconceivable prior to 1945. While the regime of diplomatic protection allows states to protect their nationals (and certain other persons) against other states, international human rights law protects persons even against their own states.

Thus in broad terms, a state’s own municipal laws or constitutional framework, its international obligations, and international law itself, limit its discretion in how it treats its own nationals. In terms of minimum standards of treatment, international limitations might be found in international human rights treaties to which the state has become party, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).[28] But that said, the state still enjoys great freedom with respect to its own nationals, if not the freedom of pre-UN Charter regimes’ ability to claim that how they treated their own nationals was of no concern to other states. In fact, the development of international human rights law and the greater standing of the individual on the plane of international law have created a more nuanced spectrum of the rights and duties that might define the relationship between the individual and his/her state of nationality.

Loyalty or obligation to the state… arguably falls into three basic categories: (1) all persons can be held accountable to a state for acts against its security or financial interests; (2) resident aliens can be held to an even higher duty of loyalty in terms of being obliged to defend the state physically during an invasion. They cannot be forced to perform general military service; and (3) nationals are bound by all of the above, and in addition can be obliged to perform general military service, to fight for their state of nationality outside its borders, and may be obliged to avoid partaking in international hostilities against the state.

5. The tourist as victim and protégé of law enforcing agencies by Erik Cohen. Leisure Studies. Vol 6, Issue 2, 181-98. 1987.

Tourists can become adversely affected by the law of a country they visit. The host may commit a crime against the visiting tourist. Conversely, the tourist may commit a crime against the host. A third and interrelated issue concerns the attitude and actions of the hosts country’s legal institutions toward tourists… Ambivalence in the tourist’s role makes him or her vulnerable to criminals, to a country’s law and legal processes, and to different attitudes of law enforcing agencies. The more a tourist moves about independently, and away from the protective shelter of an ‘environmental bubble’, the more he or she will be at risk. [181]

The foreign tourist in the host country is in an ambiguous position which makes it plausible that he may become both a victim of the law enforcing agencies as well as their protégé. This ambiguity derives from the fact that the tourist’s role embodies several structural contradictions.

The tourist is first of all a stranger, and as such is marked by many of the ambiguities implicit in the contradiction between nearness and remoteness, which served as the basis of Simmel’s (1950) pioneering analysis of the stranger’s role. The tourist, however, is usually a highly temporary stranger, who, while physically present in the host society, typically remains socially and culturally tangential to it, to a much higher degree than the permanent stranger discussed by Simmel. The tourist is, thirdly, a more of less welcome guest, and as such is also marked by the ambiguities in his hosts’ attitudes and actions, which typically reflect a mixture of friendliness and hostility, curiosity and suspicion, generosity and avarice. In traditional society, these contradictions are largely mediated by elaborate rituals of greeting and hospitality (Pitt Rivers, 1968). The tourist, however, is an impersonal paying guest, making use of the services of commercialized hospitality; hence there emerges a contradiction, in the hosts’ relationships with him, between two types of exchange: economic and social. [184]

6. Kumar Ramakrishna. Singapore: SMRT Security Breach’s Stategic Implications in Post 9/11 Era—Analysis. Eurasian Review. Sept 8, 2011. Accesssed 6 December 2011.


IN AUGUST 2011 a northbound SMRT train was found to be spray-painted with graffiti and pulled out of service. Investigations showed that the train had likely been vandalised while parked at the Bishan Depot, where a breach was found in the perimeter fencing. The Land Transport Authority expressed concern as it was not the first time such an incident had occurred. In May 2010, two vandals had cut through the perimeter fencing at SMRT’s Changi Depot and spray-painted graffiti on the side of a train as well.

The second SMRT depot breach is a genuine cause for concern. Beyond the public nuisance that vandalism poses it raises a threat from the Homeland Security angle as well. The same logic used in the Changi Depot breach can be applied: if relatively unsophisticated thrill-seeking vandals can gain unauthorised access to SMRT trains, it is inevitable that trained and determined terrorists with more sinister aims could do so as well.

There are four reasons for taking the recent security breaches seriously:

Firstly, worldwide, train networks have been targeted by terrorists, resulting in mass casualties. The Madrid attacks of March 2004, the London Underground incidents of July 2005 and the Mumbai railway station attacks of November 2008 come to mind. Train networks – be they crowded train stations or the carriages themselves — remain stock terrorist targets because they are “target-rich environments”. One successful strike can kill and maim scores of people, generating the publicity and political influence that terrorists seek as well having strategic impact. In fact, the Madrid train bombings led to the fall of the incumbent Spanish government and the subsequent withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq.

Secondly, it is known that Singapore remains an iconic terrorist target because of its close and long-standing relationship with Israel and the United States – the so-called “Jews” and “Crusaders” pilloried in Al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah propaganda. Recently the Indonesian police revealed that terrorists in that country had sought to target the Singapore embassy in Jakarta. Last year a map of the MRT network with the busy Orchard station marked out was found in the possession of a known Indonesian terrorist as well.

Thirdly, it should be realised that terrorists also follow the news; so it is important not to advertise that the authorities, by allowing yet another breach of train security, are not taking this matter seriously enough. That would be a wrong signal, however unintended. I have witnessed detained Indonesian terrorists and Abu Sayyaf leaders in the Philippines arguing about the finer nuances of general strategy and tactics, showing the degree to which they remain committed to their ideological aims.

These are people who have invested their entire lives in the Cause and it behooves us not to underestimate either their commitment or intelligence.

Fourthly, according to one simple and well-known formula, Overall Risk is the product of Threat multiplied by Capability and Vulnerability or R = T x C x V. It may be asserted that the Overall Risk of a terrorist strike in Singapore should not be overblown. Even if foreign terrorists have the intention and capability to attack Singapore – that is, the values of T and C in the above formula are high, the Overall Risk or R remains pretty low. This is because the physical safeguards against foreign-based terrorists in place since 9/11 render the Vulnerability quotient, or value of V, low. However if V is relatively high, mounting an effective strike would require a correspondingly lower Capability.

In this connection trained and committed foreign terrorists may find creative ways to use unsophisticated locals (Low Capability) to break into train depots (High Vulnerability) and conceal Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) timed to go off during peak hours. In short, the Overall Risk goes up, not because of the Threat and Capability of the trained foreign terrorists, but because of the relatively high value of V. That means unskilled locals, like mischievous young vandals, unaware that they are being used by terrorists, or untrained but self-radicalised individuals following online instructions, could breach weak security barriers and hence do the terrorists’ job for them.

Singapore has undoubtedly done much since the September 11 2001 attacks to cope with the threat of transnational terrorism. Stringent controls on the movement of hazardous and strategic materials; efficient tracking of vessels in the waters around the port; stronger co-ordination between local security and intelligence agencies and co-operation with their foreign counterparts; and grassroots participation in emergency exercises and cross-faith community engagement have done much to strengthen physical and social resilience against terrorist attack. However, as the latest SMRT lapse seems to indicate, it is perhaps in the vital area of psychological resilience that more can be done.

One aspect of psychological resilience involves raising the keen situational awareness needed to detect and quickly plug potential vulnerabilities throughout our national security ecosystem. Situational awareness is needed at all levels and spheres of society — from the teacher noting the steadily hardening extremist views of a particular student; to the neighbourhood physician detecting signs amongst his patients of possible bioterrorism; to the shopkeeper noting an unusual amount of chemical fertiliser being purchased; and transport operators taking heed of any repeated attempted breaches of depot perimeter fencing. This list is not exhaustive.

To be keenly situationally aware while not being overly paranoid is the balance that true psychological resilience requires. One has to be alert but not alarmed. Ten years after 9/11, over and above physical and social resilience, mainstreaming psychological resilience with a mature situational awareness, may well enhance the comprehensive hardening of Singapore against potential terrorist attack.

7. Singapore’s Innovations to Due Process. Paper Presented to the International Society for the Reform of Criminal Law’s Conference on Human Rights and the Administration of Criminal Justice, Dec 2000, Johannesburg. By Michael Hor. National University of Singapore. Accessed 6 December 2011.

The observation I wish to make at this point is that, for better or for worse, moral discourse in Singapore does not feature very prominently in official decision making in the context of criminal justice. One may attribute it to “asian values”, to the immigrant mentality of Singaporeans, or to official down-playing of moral discourse. A rigid cost-benefit analysis is applied to every proposed measure. If the cost of effective crime prevention is the accidental punishment of a few innocent persons, or the inordinate punishment of admittedly guilty persons, that price must be paid. Nothing is wrong in itself. It is no wonder that official justifications of Singapore’s criminal justice system appeal to Packer’s “Crime control” model – indeed, although Packer meant that model to be merely descriptive, Singapore has made it prescriptive. In short, the judicial role is minimised, either because of distrust, or because of inefficiency, and the executive or administrative role of police and prosecutor is maximised.

The underlying theme of Singapore’s’ difference is not deliberate governmental repression, it is a stark utilitarian calculus. One aspect of this is the willingness to trade-in (what others might see as) respect for “human rights” for better crime control, expensive, time-consuming trial processes for the efficiency of administrative decisions. Utilitarian calculations cut both ways. There is also a cost to departures from accepted norms of criminal justice.

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