GILBERT GOH: 5 PROTOCOL PROCEDURES THAT THE POLICE SHOULD REVIEW AFTER BENJAMIN LIM’S SUICIDE

1. Minors should be handed over to MSF and not police – the tragic death of 14-year-old Benjamin shows that minors are been subjected to alot of stress when they are handcuffed at school and brought for questioning alone in the police station. The parents were also not kept informed.

When I was interrogated last year for 6 hours at Bedok police station, I was terrified days before the interrogation and could not sleep for a few nights. What more a minor? Minors who are suspected of committing a crime in school must be handled by MSF or MOE and the parents to be kept informed of what’s happening. They are too young to be subjected to our police style of interrogation. The current protocol of no adult-accompaniment must be over-hauled so our minors are protected and proper legal access accorded.

2. Lawyers must be present – I was shocked that during any police interrogation no lawyers are allowed to be present. When asked why is this so, the response was that its procedural.

We were interrogated by the police who will determine whether we are to be charged in court or even haul to jail and we can’t even have proper legal access? Certain things we say or any responses to questions asked by the police can be used as evidence in court and God knows how many people are being incriminated because of this crucial lack of legal advice. We can only engage a lawyer to defend us in open court trial but isn’t this too late?

3. No video recording – there is no recording of the whole interrogation process and though the Interrogation Officer (IO) records down everything we say, its still his words use against mine in the end if there is a dispute. There is no video recording to back up what the IO asks or transpire in the interrogation room. Moreover, I have to sign the interrogation sheet on the spot and if not its a criminal offence!

To his credit, my IO went through each written statement thoroughly and even changed the wording when I insisted. However, after 6 hours of intense interrogation, you don’t want to go through each sentence in detail and moreover you won’t know whether what you say will hurt you in the future as there is no proper legal guidance.

4. Stop all 4-man police harassment of individuals at MRT and other public places – we saw too often a group of 4 to 6 police officers surrounding a poor suspicious individual who is spotted with long hair or simply have a shaggy outlook. This kind of open demeaning harassment should immediately stop. One should not pre-judge a person just because he looks untidy or dirty.

5. Stop issuing meaningless police warning to activists and dissidents – many activists were given written warning letters by the police after interrogation. They were not charge in court openly nor given the free-to-go sign.

Though the police assures us that we will not be penalised in future for any cases held against us, it is uncomfortable to know that you have something held in the police record which has ambiguous unclear connotation. If we are found guilty please charge us in court so we can properly defend ourselves. But if we are innocent, please let us off so we can held our heads high. A written warning is not something we are proud to have in our police record.

Gilbert Goh

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