Wednesday, 27 September 2023

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14-year-old's death spurs a mother to speak up on son's similar experience

After the case of 14-year-old, Benjamin Lim was reported by TOC, a mother has written in to share her story of her son. Although not alleged of the same offence and circumstances, however, her son went through the same experience of having to be unaccompanied in a police interview.
She shared that an unresolved offence that took place in her son’s school last year resulted in a police report made after the victim’s parents were unhappy over the lack of investigation by the school on the matter. The school could not identify the perpetrator of the offence through the closed-circuit television recording (CCTV)
After the offence took place, Three uniformed police officer went down to the school to investigate and identified
Tom (not his real name), her 13-year-old son through the CCTV as the person who committed the offence.
Initially, they had wanted to bring him to the police station for questioning but was disallowed by the school, as they would need to seek the parent’s permission. However, the mother was not informed of the questioning by the police.
Tom was questioned alone throughout the questioning procedure at school by different police officers as his teachers were not allowed to be with him. (The standard procedure as police were afraid that the adult would hamper the search for truth)
Tom eventually acknowledged to the offence as the CCTV show that evident of his action and was made to sign on the document by the police officers. After the questioning, the school called and informed his mum. But by that time, it was too late her to react.
When he got back home, he was very quiet and sad. The mother described him as being visibly guilty over his action. After much questioning from his mum, he revealed to her that it was a frightening the experience to him. At this point, he broke down and cried. The mother could not collect any information from him as he was unclear and did not know what he was talking about.
The mother said, “I was very upset with the school for not informing me even though I wasn’t allowed to be with my boy, but at least, I’m there physically to assure him that everything is alright, kind of moral support for him, not easy to for a 13 years old kid to overcome this alone.”
“Yes, he made a mistake and I’m not defending him. He needs to be punished but not in this way, as his offence happened in school and I would prefer the school to deal with it. Unfortunately, the police was involved because the school couldn’t resolve.”
“Can’t imagine him taking a bus home alone and wondering what happen? How to explain to his parent? If he has a weak mind, what would he do?will he run away from home as he afraid that parent will reprimand him? All these questions were running in my mind, at that point of time. He was very traumatised by the event and cried once he reached home, he told me that was his first time facing so many police.”
She relates her son’s experience with Benjamin’s case, “I can imagine how Benjamin felt at that time. They should not be alone with the police, If it happened to me, as an adult I’ll be frightened let alone a kid. “Like Benjamin’s parent, we also have no clue what’s going on. I went to the police station twice to gather more information as the teacher wasn’t able to provide any. That’s the frustrating part!”
On the issue of signing the police statement, the mother said, “I thought the legal person should be at the age of 21 to sign any document but not a 13-year-old boy.” She added, “I couldn’t comprehend the way they handle the situation, they are still kids. How could they allow a minor to sign any legal document before age 21.”
When the parents went down to the police station to have their statement taken and to be explained about Tom’s alleged offence, the mother questioned the police about having Tom to sign the statement as he was only 13-years-old.
The police replied her by citing the police code of conduct that the son can sign on the statement first and later acknowledged by the parents.
It was a stressful experience for the whole family throughout the period waiting for his verdict and eventually Tom was given a warning letter for the offence that he had confessed to.
The mother was also upset as the police report is due to the attitude of the teacher who handled the investigation of the offence, which eventually led to the son’s experience.
She had asked the principal why was the police able to identify the culprit but the investigating teacher could not and whether if the teacher had seriously viewed the footage. However, the principal had constantly reassure  her that the teacher did put in the effort but unfortunately couldn’t identity.
She says that she did not get any closure from the school as a parent till now she still can’t understand what lead to the police being involved. The mother wrote that it would be better if she was allowed to view the cctv recording.
The principal is said to be very supportive towards the recommended guidance programme of Tom, through the issuing of the warning letter. The mother said, “I feel so bad over Benjamin’s case, I should have press on and complaint to MOE (Ministry of Education) but I didn’t.” As a parent, I’ve given the school a chance by not blowing the issue out of proportion but did the school give the student a chance in Benjamin case?
The mother hopes that the MOE and the Singapore Police Force will look into Benjamin’s case properly before another life is lost.
Note – Please refer to the original case and note that while Benjamin confessed to the police that he committed the offence, but he denied of the charge against him to his mother.

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