Helping the vulnerable deal with police

Helping the vulnerable deal with police
Mr Christopher Goh is one of 60 trained volunteers in the pilot scheme. Studies abroad have found that people with mental disabilities tend to incriminate themselves and confess to offences they have not committed.

SINGAPORE - It was close to midnight when Mr William Teo received a text message last month alerting him that a person with intellectual disability was being questioned by the police for suspected theft.

The 53-year-old got dressed and rushed to Bedok Police Division: He is one of 60 volunteers who have been trained as part of a pilot scheme aimed at helping vulnerable people during criminal investigations.

When Mr Teo got there, the man in his 40s had already been detained for about 10 hours and was visibly anxious.

"He kept asking if he would be locked up or if he could make restitution," said Mr Teo, a director at an engineering company.

"He mixed up the chronology of what happened, who was involved and was repeating the same thing over and over again."

Mr Teo calmed him down with reassurances and rephrased the questions asked by the police officer so that they could better understand what had happened.

It is not clear whether the man was eventually charged with theft, as volunteers are usually not privy to what happens after.

The pilot is run by an inter-agency committee which comprises the Attorney-General's Chambers, Ministry of Social and Family Development, police, National Council of Social Service (NCSS), Law Society of Singapore and the Association of Criminal Lawyers.

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