Online users ask why they could be called up by police as witness if they shoot a video of a public incident

These days, it has become a common sight to see people quickly taking out their mobile phone to snap a picture or record a video of an incident before actually helping the victim.

Incidents like a brawl in Geylang involving 20 people or a woman’s leg caught in the gap between the platform and an MRT train were all caught on camera.

However, individuals behind these clips are curious onlookers who don’t do much to offer help to the victims.

Commuter Brandon Wong who assisted SMRT staff and consoled the woman whose leg got trapped in between the platform and the train at Buona Vista station last week said that most people were not doing much to help her. As such, Mr Wong said in his Facebook post that train commuters should come forward to offer assistance to those in need and sympathise with them, rather than simple “(standing) around taking photographs and videos”.

According to Rajan Supramaniam, managing director of Hilborne Law, photos and videos taken at a public incident can be submitted to a court of law as evidence, he said to The Straits Times (ST).

Although such videos can be sent to the court as evidence, police will still do their groundwork like taking statements from the accused, victims and witnesses, as well refer to other footages such as from police cameras or closed-circuit television cameras, Mr Rajan noted.

He added that the individual who captures video of an incident can be called up by the police as a witness. “While they may not have intended to report it or make the footage known to the police, they can still be called up if the authorities chance upon the footage online,” he explained.

A police spokesman also told ST that once a report is filed, the police will assess the facts and circumstances of each case and take necessary action where need, including reviewing all forms of proof – like social media post to find out if an offence has been committed.

Looking into this phenomena of onlookers filming the incident instead of taking action, experts said that it is symptomatic of the social media age.

In today’s society, the act of witnessing an incident is perceived to be equivalent to taking action, said Assistant Professor Liew Kai Khiun of Nanyang Technological University’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information. He also mentioned that filming such videos is probably safer for the witness than stepping into the limelight.

On the other hand, John Logan, programme director of addition rehabilition facility The Cabin, said that this could be possible because people are becoming more addicted in getting attention from others. “People have always looked and watched when accidents happen. But now what is happening is that people can get ‘likes’ and ‘hits’ on social media.”

After reading the consequences of recording a video at a public incident, many netizens question the need for them to be called up as witness by the police in the article’s comment section of ST’s Facebook page. They said that if this is made into a law, then people will just walk away and pretend they didn’t see anything if a crime happens. This is because people will be reluctant to be a witness, resulting to the victim losing any evidence that they may have to support them, and the police will take longer to investigate and solve the case.


However, others agreed and said that that the right thing to do in such a scenario is to actually help the victim. Some even suggested a law should be made to summon those who take videos as evidence ” as witness in pending matters before the courts”.

Facebook user Dino Dsuzair question why the police is troubling netizens’ who record videos, as these videos can actually help their investigation tremendously. Since the video takers are helping the police, he then wondered if they should be getting paid for their action?


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