MP Patrick Tay on minors accused of crime: Protect all who are vulnerable

MP Patrick Tay on minors accused of crime: Protect all who are vulnerable
The teen fell to his death from his flat on Jan 26, after he was picked up from school by the police and questioned over an alleged molestation.
PHOTO: The New Paper

As minors are vulnerable, a Member of Parliament is calling for more safeguards for such individuals accused of a crime.

Former policeman and MP for West Coast GRC Patrick Tay was reacting to last week's news about a 14-year-old, who was found dead after he was hauled up by the police for an alleged molest.

Since then, the police have said that they will review their procedures on allowing an appropriate adult to be present when a youth is interviewed.

But this should also extend to all vulnerable persons, said Mr Tay, who is also a member of the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Home Affairs and Law.

This includes the elderly and those with intellectual disabilities.

"I use the term vulnerable persons, because not only are minors more timid in disposition, but the elderly and the intellectually disabled can feel fearful in a police investigation too," he said.

Mr Tay speaks from experience, as he had himself conducted police interviews with accused persons during his stint as a police inspector from 1996 to 1998.

It is not in the police's interest to cause fear or be intimidating to the accused, he explained.

Said Mr Tay: "Police interviews are about finding evidence that is beyond a reasonable doubt. There is no point in taking a statement (from a frightened person) only to have it be thrown out in court later.

"In the course of the review, the police should share some of their procedures as long as it does not impede investigations."

He said the police have to "balance between the rights of the accused and the administration of justice, since having another person present can affect the recorded statement".


Others are also calling for changes to police procedures.

On campaigning site, Facebook group Restore started a petition yesterday, addressed to the authorities, to ensure the protection of minors' rights during investigations.

It attracted more than 200 signatories in the first 10 hours.

The Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) also welcomed the police review, stating that "any investigation must take place with due regard for the rights of suspects".

As a group that works with people who have experienced sexual assault, Aware said it is concerned about the rights and welfare of children who may be involved in sexual assault investigations, whether as complainants, suspects or witnesses.

Mr Tay and Aware also called on the police to draw from international best practice. Aware even cited how in Victoria, Australia, police can only interview a person under 18 if a parent, guardian or other support person is present.

Father of teen: Police review 'a good move'

The father of the 14-year-old boy, whom we are not naming, told The New Paper yesterday that the police review is "a good move".

He said while he is upset at how things turned out, he does not want to blame the police or his son's school as he does not know the full facts yet.

But he told TNP that he is thankful to the police officers and Nee Soon GRC MP Louis Ng, who took time to answer his questions and address the family's concerns at his Yishun home.

He said: "The police are trying to make things right and protect young children better in future. This is not only a good thing, but it is necessary.

"The only thing is as a father, it comes too late. I have already lost my son."

This article was first published on Feb 3, 2016.
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