Should there be a legal age to be questioned by the Police?

A 14 year old boy fell to his death on the same day he was released on bail after being questioned by the police.

The minor whose personal information has been retained due to laws protecting minors in Singapore was found dead at the foot of his block the same day he was released by the police after being investigated for molest.

His death has lead to a public outcry, especially from his parents who insisted that the teen should not have been questioned without their presence. Authorities have however stated that in Singapore it is not required for a parent or guardian to be in the room with a minor while he or she is questioned by the police.

A spokesman from the Police also mentioned that things are much unlike American drama series’ where suspects are shown refusing to speak until their lawyer arrives.

The mother of the teen has also mentioned that when she asked her son if he had indeed committed the offence, he said no. He said that he didn’t do it, but since everyone else believed that he did, he relented and went along with it.

Would things have been different if the teen had his parents in the same room as him? Would he have felt less pressured to agree with his interrogators? And how would the parents stay neutral throughout the questioning? These are some questions worth asking.

However should such precedence be given to all minors? How about in the recent arson case where 5 youths torched a good part of the Punggol Waterway, causing damage to property and the environment?

The ages of the suspects were between 14 and 20, should those below the age of 16 be allowed to have their parents around while those of legal age be alone? Or should the police be allowed to conduct their investigations for all the suspects in a similar fashion?

The fire took 20 firefighters and a good 30 minutes of combating before it was finally put out. The fire according to SCDF spanned the size of two basketball courts.

If parents got involved in the proceedings of interrogations and questionings it would definitely hamper the investigative process as most parents would be unable to adopt a neutral perspective when it comes to protecting their children. They might perceive certain types of questions as too intimidating or compelling in a way that might make their child look vulnerable or culpable.

On another note, it would however give their children a sense of security knowing that they aren’t alone. Psychiatrists have chipped in and said that it may not be possible to have the parents in the same room as their child doing questioning but perhaps knowing that their parents are close by or in another room might make them feel safer.

They added that some teens aren’t as independent as others and most may not know their legal rights and might be subject to unfair pressure from the Police.

A veteran lawyer stated that it should be a default assumption that teenagers are unaware of their situation due to their level of maturity.

If the suspects in the Arson case at Punggol Waterway are to be brought in for questioning, should the minors in the group have their parents present during the interrogation?

Although I’ve never been in an interrogation room I like to believe I’ve watched enough Crimewatch to believe that it doesn’t look like the Police resort to violence and intimidation to get answers.

Therefore this writer believes no, a police questioning although different from being questioned by your teacher or principal when one is caught committing an offence, should serve the same purpose. To establish the truth and to get to the root of the offence. But perhaps to keep minors from feeling the stress of an interrogation it might be conducive to notify parents and to have them accompany the minor to and fro from the police station without interfering with any questioning.

Editor's Note: The youth who jumped to his death has since been identified by The Online Citizen as Benjamin Lim Jun Hui. May he RIP.

This article first appeared on Five Stars And A Moon. It is reproduced with permission.


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