The Minister for Home Affairs, Mr K Shanmugam, announced on Friday (6 Jan) that suspects under the age of 16 will be accompanied by independent trained volunteers during police interviews from April onwards. The volunteers will come under the new Appropriate Adult Scheme for Young Suspects (AAYS).
The new scheme mirrors the the Appropriate Adult Scheme which aims to provide assistance to persons with intellectual or mental disability who are required to give a statement to the Police during investigation. The Minister said that volunteers unders AAYS will be trained to spot signs of distress, aid communication between the suspect and the police when necessary, and provide emotional support.
A multi-agency review on police investigation processes for minors was prompted after 14-year-old schoolboy Benjamin Lim committed suicide soon after the police questioned him about an alleged molest early last year.
Lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam commenting on the refinements to the existing police processes said that he hopes that this will not be the end of refinements made to Singapore’s criminal justice system.
Writing in his Facebook Mr Thuraisingam said, “What would be a good next step would be to videotape the statement recording process for all offenders.”
He added: “That would certainly save court time and costs, as it would be clear at an early stage of proceedings whether an Accused person has come clean from the start and admitted to the offence unconditionally thus deserving an appropriate reduction in his sentence for being remorseful and cooperating with the authorities.”
Such videotaped statements will “also save Court time when it comes to deciding on the voluntariness of a statement when an Accused person claims trial and disputes the veracity of the statement taken from him, during investigations,” the lawyer said.
Dr Winslow Munidasa, a psychiatrist, commenting on Mr Thuraisingam’s post said that he agreed that videotaping of statements from the start of interrogation would be useful and save him from having to appear at *Newton hearings.
*A Newton hearing or inquiry is a comparatively modern legal procedure in English law, used where the two sides offer such conflicting evidence that a judge sitting alone (that is, without a jury) tries to ascertain which party is telling the truth.