Seven of the fourteen residents of the Singapore Boys’ Home, who were arrested on Friday evening, have been charged with rioting according to Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee.
14 residents from the juvenile detention centre run by MSF were arrested by 50 police officers outfitted with riot gear on Friday, after the police were called in when the group “behaved in an unruly manner.”
An auxiliary police officer and two male staff from the home were conveyed to the hospital the same night.
According to Lee, the boys – who are between the ages of 14 and 17 – used “sports equipment” to assault officers who arrived at the scene after the boys caused a “mass disturbance” at the open yard after sports activities:
“Yesterday, at about 5.55pm, there was unruly behavior and mass disturbance in Singapore Boys’ Home at Jurong West in an open yard after some sports activities. From what we understand, some of our officers were assaulted using sports equipment.
“As per the protocols, the police were called in and together with Singapore Boys’ Home officers, order was restored and the incident was brought under control by about 7pm.”
Lee added that the identity of the seven who have been charged in court for rioting will not be released due to their age and that the remaining seven who were arrested will be returned to the Boys Home.
MSF later said in a statement that the remaining seven who were not charged are assisting in investigations. It added that the home had been under lock down during the incident and that the families of the 14 boys were notified following the arrests.
The ministry further said that all three men who were conveyed to the hospital on Friday have been discharged: “Following treatment, one SBH staff was discharged last night. The other SBH staff and the (auxiliary police officer) were admitted for observation and treatment. Both have been discharged today.”
Meanwhile, Lee acknowledged that such disturbances occur “from time to time” at such institutions. He told reporters:
“For disturbances like this, the protocol is to call in the police to help to ensure that order is restored and the facility locked down. For every (one) of these incidents, we will undertake a review of what happened.”
“Investigations are ongoing and therefore in terms of facts, we will let the investigations take their course.”
Lee further noted that while the home is a detention centre, it also aims to rehabilitate its residents, “While discipline is important, we also want to have a safe environment in which rehabilitation can take its course.”
The minister said that while the staff at the home are trained to discipline the residents and are trained to de-escalate crises, “as far as disturbances are concerned, where offenses may have been committed, it is the police who will step in to use the police powers.”
When asked about another incident in the home two years ago in 2016 – when 26 youths were involved in a six-hour standoff with the police after their escape plan failed and they barricaded themselves in their rooms and destroyed and defaced property – Lee said that the 2016 incident was a “more major incident”.
He added that Friday’s incident was on “quite a different scale” even though it was still a “major disturbance”.
Lee said that the home and MSF will cooperate with the police and the Home Team in their investigations.