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Mother of 13-year-old files report against police officers’ abuse of power and told no further actions would be taken

A single mother filed a police report against police officers whom she claimed to have forced her 13-year-old son to admit a crime that he did not commit and the harsh treatment that her son had to go through. Six months later, the mother was told by the Internal Affairs Office (IAO) that no actions would be taken against the officers involved.

A police report dated 7 July 2015 was sent to The Online Citizen (TOC) after it published the story of 14-year-old Benjamin Lim's death from the perspective of his family. The report was forwarded by the mother's friend and had copied the mother in the email loop.

The friend wrote on behalf of the mother and said, "Thanks a lot for your help and kind attention in her boy's case.  We just don't want more harm to minors and authorities will be more vigilant toward our young generations."

The ordeal of the mother and her son

On 30 June, at about 8 pm, a group of 8-9 individuals in plainclothes approached the mother and her son after stepping out from the lift at their flat.

One individual from the group identified himself as a police officer by showing a warrant card and then informed the mother that he need to speak with her son regarding a robbery case on the 17 June 2015 at Crawford Lane. After saying that, her son was taken to the staircase.

The officer told the mother to return to her flat as he said that her presence there would interfere with their interrogation and did not allow the mother to accompany her son. Every attempt by the mother to leave her unit to accompany her son, was stopped by the officers. They questioned her about her son's whereabouts on the said date of the robbery. The mother claimed that some of the officers even told her to persuade her to convince her son in admitting to the said offence.

The mother was only allowed to leave her unit to persuade her son to admit to the offence and after which, was again told to return to her unit.

According to the mother, the officers interrogated her son at the staircase till 11.40pm. This meant that the interrogation was about 3 and a half hours long. The mother said in her police report that her son was forced to admit to the offence due to the long interrogation.

After her son had admitted to the offence, she was told that her son would be brought to the lock-up and have his statement recorded at the police division.

The son and his friend, who was already with the police officers, were both brought to the police station at 11.45pm.

The following morning at around 5 am, the mother was called to bail her son out from Cantonment Police Station. Upon reaching the station, she paid the bail and had her son released from police custody.

When the two got back home, the mother asked the son what had happened, and the son broke down in tears saying that he was scolded vulgarities by the officers during the interrogation and was threatened to be sent to the Boy's Home if he did not admit to the offence. The son also said that one of the officers pushed him to the wall and poked him in the chest during the interrogation.

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On the afternoon of the same day, the mother went to check with the school if the police had informed them of the investigation as the Investigation Officer said he would be doing so. However, the form teacher of her son stated that she was not aware of the matter.

The mother subsequently filed a police report against the police officers on 7 July 2015.  The mother shared that she found out from the victim, a rag-and-bone (garang guni) man at Crawford Lane that the culprits were Malay and not Chinese.

The friend wrote, "Both of them were quite shaken and traumatised. It is a nightmare to them."

After the incident, the mother even went to her Member of Parliament, Mr Edwin Tong and various association to seek help but all was in vain.

No further actions against officers concerned said IAO

When the IAO of the Police Force replied the mother on 7 January 2016 on the case, it stated that they have completed its investigation into her complaint and decided to take no further action against the officers concerned after consulting with the Attorney-General's Chambers.

Apart from the letter, there is no further follow-up from the IAO with the mother.

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In reference to Benjamin Lim's death, the mother's friend wrote to TOC saying, "We are very upset as this tragedy can be avoided if they look into an earlier case enclosed. My friend’s 13 years old boy facing 8-9 plainclothes police officers and was forced to admit theft that he never commit before. The boy has went through lie detector test at police station. Yet they are not apologetic about the allegation. This is outrageous!"

"We are very upset over this matter because my friend is a single mother and these group of plainclothes police have (to) overreact to a short and skinny minor."

"Now we are very doubtful of the authorities’ decision and procedures." said the mother's friend.

After the death of 14-year-old Benjamin Lim, the Singapore Police Force said that it would be reviewing its procedures on the accompaniment of an appropriate adult to be present during the police interview of a minor. However, there has been no mention of the timeline for this review to be conducted.

The response by the Police on the report by the parent

TOC has written into the Police on 5 March and subsequently 17 March, but the Police (including the police commissioner) gave no response even though an automated message was sent to state that the mail was received.

TOC then wrote to Mr Melvin Yong, Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar GRC and former  Assistant Police Commissioner for his comments on this matter.

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Mr Melvin Yong at Parliament

Mr Yong had earlier spoke in parliament about TOC's coverage on the death of Benjamin Lim,  "Madam, I have been in the Police Force for 20 years and public trust and public confidence in the Police is crucial for the Police to be effective. Can the Minister elaborate on his assessment of TOC's motivations, conduct and coverage of this tragic event?"

Mr Yong replied to TOC's email, "I note that you have rightly referred the matter to the IAO. I have also copied the SPF's Quality Service Manager, ACP Maria Oh for her attention."

However, when TOC replied saying that the IAO has concluded the investigation in Jan this year with no follow-up actions and asked what would he suggest such families to seek redress on such matters, no further reply was given from Mr Yong.

TOC is open for the Police to file their response on this story and will publish their reply in full when received.