An old and frail woman went to a neighbourhood police centre to report a lost pawn shop ticket but was arrested instead. She was handcuffed and put in leg restraints, and her family wasn’t informed by the police because the woman was stressed and overwhelmed and was unable to recall the contact details of any of her relatives.
In a letter to The Straits Times published on 15 March, Madam Gertrude Simon said that she was deeply saddened and shocked by the events that took place on 4 March.
Mdm Simon wrote, “My mother is 73 years old, frail, and suffers from a host of medical conditions. That morning, she went to the Ang Mo Kio South Neighbourhood Police Centre to report a lost pawn shop ticket.
“However, the officer-in-charge informed her that there was a warrant of arrest issued against her in 2015 for failing to appear for a court hearing on a town council-related matter.”
The police did not provide her mother with more details of the offence, but she was taken into custody at the Ang Mo Kio Police Station, then escorted to the State Courts, before being remanded at Changi Women's Prison (CWP), Mdm Simon added.
While in custody, her mother was stressed and overwhelmed, and was unable to recall the contact details of any of her relatives.
“Hence, it was only later that afternoon, after we were contacted by a CWP staff member, that we found out about my mother's whereabouts. She was remanded over the weekend and was not allowed any visitors. She was taken to the State Courts on 6 March, where bail was offered. Thankfully, the prison officials had placed my mother in the medical ward, so she received her daily doses of medicine,” she wrote.
She then gave her opinion of the incident, “There is a serious need for the police and government agencies to re-examine the procedures involving our elderly.
“When elderly suspects are detained, factors like their age, health and mental state, along with the seriousness of the offence, need to be considered.
“Their sudden detention and lack of access to their loved ones can be very traumatic,” wrote Mdm Simon.
“Their next-of-kin must be contacted; if necessary, the elderly person should be taken home to retrieve phone records,” she pointed out.
As Mdm Simon wrote, it would have made it easier to settle bail arrangements and avert the need for her mother to be taken to prison.
Mdm Simon continued, “Furthermore, when my mother was moved between the police station, CWP and the court, she was handcuffed and had leg restraints on. It is appalling that a weak old woman was subjected to such harsh treatment.”
Mdm Simon may have shed little light on the warrant for her mother's arrest which dated back to 2015, or why she had not been arrested until that day when she turned up at the police centre to make a report of an unrelated matter. Regardless, her call to our law enforcement officers to handle such cases involving the elderly with greater empathy than that which was demonstrated in her mother's case is a reasonable one.
“I hope our pioneer generation would not be subjected to such an ordeal in future.”