The coroner’s inquiry into the death of schoolboy Benjamin Lim started today (May 17). The two days of fact finding proceedings will see witnesses, including representatives from Benjamin’s school and police officers on the case, give oral testimony. The State Coroner will review all evidence and establish the cause of and circumstances related to the schoolboy’s death. The Inquiry will also allow for Benjamin’s next-of-kin to pose questions.
14-year-old Benjamin Lim fell to his death after the police interrogated him for an allegation of outrage of modesty. The student’s death caused widespread public unhappiness over police interrogation procedures of minors and school procedures in police investigations.
Both Ministers of Home Affairs and Education have replied to questions raised by Members of Parliament. The police are now reviewing its procedures for interrogating minors.
The following are snippets from various news sources about what happened at the Inquiry today.
“ASP Mohammad Razif said the police had obtained closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage of the alleged molest from the lift after Benjamin died on Jan 26<…>
He said it showed how Benjamin, a Secondary 3 student from North View Secondary School, had followed the girl into the lift, with the girl pressing the 14th storey button while Benjamin pressed 13.
Benjamin appeared to have dropped his phone, and as he bent down to pick it, he touched the girl’s left buttock with his right hand.
The girl was seen turning around, watching Benjamin move away while he continued looking at her.
At the 13th storey, Benjamin exited the lift and the girl also stepped out briefly.
Said ASP Razif, referring to the girl’s statement: “The girl said ‘wait, wait, wait’, following which Benjamin replied ‘what is it’. The girl then said ‘nothing’.”
Following the exchange, she re-entered the lift and exited on her level.” – The New Paper
“State Counsel Wong Woon Kwong said Benjamin did not show signs of emotional distress or instability “at any point in time” on Jan 26. The only clear sign of stress was when he spoke to his mother on the phone at school, Mr Wong said.
According to Mr Wong’s opening statement, Benjamin displayed “visible signs of stress” when he told his mother that he was being taken into custody by the police, and his mother “spoke very loudly to him”.
The inquiry also heard that Benjamin suffered from childhood emotional disorder. He was diagnosed when he was seven years old and received counselling for a few years until 2011.
However, Benjamin did not attend counselling sessions from 2012 onwards, as he was observed to be doing well by then, Mr Wong said.” – Channel NewsAsia
“(The police had to visit North View Secondary School because) they were unable to establish the boy’s identity initially. Camera footage had showed the boy wearing the school’s uniform.
Five plainclothes officers arrived in two unmarked cars at the school on Jan 26.
But, added Mr Wong, the school and police took steps to handle Benjamin sensitively throughout the process.
This included wearing civilian attire, allowing the Principal to speak to the schoolboy to reassure him before the police interview, and having the school counsellor join in the interview, he said.
Benjamin was also allowed to speak to his mother before going to the police station and was not restrained or handcuffed.
An officer also spoke to him in the car to put him at ease, and he was then interviewed in an open plan office.
The young boy was not placed with other adults in custody when waiting for his mother to bail him out after he was arrested, and was released within four hours of being brought to the station.” – The Straits Times
“Choo (Choo Zhengxi, lawyer engaged by Benjamim’s family) sought to clarify a few points with the IO, one being the date on which the police sent the photo of the CCTV footage outside the lift to the school. After clarification, the IO clarified that the police had sent the photo of the CCTV footage showing Benjamin Lim to the school on 25 January, at around 6.15pm, but noted that the school did not view the image until 26 January, where the boy was recognized due to his red spectacles.
Two, Choo noted that IO Razif mentioned in his investigation report that the school counsellor had, on 26 January, 4.13pm, discussed with Mrs Lim whether Benjamin Lim should attend the school camp. IO Razif’s report indicated that Mrs Lim had agreed with the school counsellor.
However, Choo disputed this point by noting that Mrs Lim’s statement is contrary to what the school counsellor mentioned. The IO then noted that the school counsellor and the Discipline Mistress (DM) had brought the matter up with Mrs Lim at around 11am at school.
Again, Choo pointed out that the conditional statements of the two individuals do not seem to match, as the school counsellor’s recollection stated that the DM was not present when the matter of the school camp was brought up, while the DM also mentioned that the school camp was brought up with Mrs Lim in a separate instance. In response to the coroner’s question if there were two separate instances, the IO replied yes.
Mrs Lim’s account on the matter is that the school called to inform her that the school authorities have decided in an earlier meeting that Benjamin Lim was not to attend the school camp and to do self-learning at home with the accompaniment of the family. No discussion was ever conducted with the mother by the school counsellor.” – The Online Citizen
The Online Citizen further reported that “a number of questions filed by Benjamin’s father have been blocked by the State Counsel. In particular, the State Counsel objected to the filing of the question on why there was a need for the three police officers from the neighbourhood police post, citing that it was not of any relevance to establish the cause of death.”
Benjamin’s family, including his parents and elder brother, were present in the gallery at the Inquiry, along with representatives of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Education.Follow us on Social Media
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