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What to do if you are hauled up for police interview

cantonment police complex

By Teo Soh Lung, a retired lawyer and ISA detainee

In view of the police interview which Han Hui Hui was subjected to last night, here are some quick notes just in case if you are being being hauled up to the police station.

Every activist is prone to being summoned to the police station, usually to answer questions relating to the commission of an alleged offence. It is pretty routine and there is nothing to fear.

Sometimes the police goes on a fishing trip hoping to catch someone through the statements collected from various people. Sometimes it is pure harassment.

An activist must be prepared for interviews at police stations. These are not to be taken lightly. There are a few basic things that he/she has to remember when summoned to answer about the commission of an alleged offence.

Letters to attend at police station

Letters from the police to attend an interview need not be physically delivered. They can be posted through ordinary snail mail. But often, the police have a lot of time in their hands and they may take a drive to your house.

But this must never be midnight or early hours of the morning. If they do that, it is harassment and an abuse of police power.

Never open doors at midnight. Call the police and your friends. If they continue to bang loudly, telephone your friends for help. They should video the police outside your door. Have a chat group so that one message goes out to the entire group.

It is possible to request for interviews to be conducted at a police station in your neighbourhood or near your home. If the appointment is not suitable, you can request for a change.

Interviews

Never attend an interview alone. Always bring a friend or two.

Your friend cannot be in the interview room but he can wait at the reception. If this is not possible, inform reliable friends to keep track of your attendance at the police station. Give them the particulars of police station and telephone number. If possible, the name of the officer-in-charge. Your friends should call the police station or officer regularly for updates.

  1. Keep your friends informed of developments, whether through telephone calls, facebook or messages.
  2. Wear comfortable warm clothing and shoes. If your interview is at the Cantonment Police Headquarters, it is very cold. You can request the officer to turn up the air-conditioner if you cannot bear the cold.
  3. You are entitled to request for hot drinks and snacks if you are hungry. If your interview takes hours, you are also entitled to request for lunch and dinner.
  4. Take toilet breaks.
  5. Bring paper and pen to record the questions and answers. As most of you know, Han Hui Hui had her notebook (the paper notebook not the computer) taken away after the interview. The police have no power to retain your properties as you have not committed any offence.
  6. Request for a copy of your signed statement if you sign any statement. Often, the police will refuse to give this to you. In that case, you can refuse to sign the statement. There is no rule to say that statements given to the police must be signed.
  7. Han Hui Hui was questioned from 2 to 10 pm. Eight hours is a long time and a bad reflection of the standard of our police force. I suspect that there was no pressure from outside to compel the police to finish their work earlier. If friends and family members telephone the police or attend at the police station earlier, this long interview may have been avoided.
  8. Keep your answers short and never volunteer statements. If you have no knowledge, say so.