Support scheme for young suspects during police interviews will soon include 16 and 17 year olds: Sun Xueling
SINGAPORE: A support scheme for young suspects during interviews with law enforcement agencies will be expanded to include those aged 16 and 17, it was announced on Tuesday (Jul 5).
The age threshold will be increased in phases from April 2023, said Minister of State for Home Affairs Sun Xueling in Parliament. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) will aim to complete the expansion of the scheme by October next year.
"This can only be done when the number of AA volunteers is increased," said Ms Sun, referring to volunteers under the Appropriate Adult Scheme for Young Suspects (AAYS).
Under the AAYS, an appropriate adult - an independent, trained volunteer - is activated for all suspects under the age of 16 during police interviews.
Minister of State for Home Affairs Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim had said last year that there are regular reviews to ensure that protocols in dealing with young suspects are up to date. He spoke in Parliament in response to questions that arose from the case of 17-year-old drug suspect Justin Lee, who died after falling from height, months after his arrest.
Justin was arrested in February 2021 and charged with drug trafficking offences in June, before being released on bail. He died on Sep 16.
The Central Narcotics Bureau launched an investigation into how Justin was treated and questioned after his mother alleged that he was mistreated during the process.
While the agency concluded that he was treated "professionally and fairly" during investigations, and that there was "no mistreatment" when he was in the lock-up, the case prompted questions from MPs at that time about law enforcement agencies' protocols when dealing with young suspects.
On Tuesday, Ms Sun responded to questions from MP Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim (PAP-Chua Chu Kang) who asked for an update on the review of AAYS and whether there are adequate safeguards when the police interview young suspects.
"It is accepted that young suspects may require more support during interviews," said Ms Sun.
“Thus, as far as possible, police will interview young suspects in a police station, away from their schools or place of employment,” she added.
“Should interviews need to be conducted at schools or places of employment, police will avoid drawing unnecessary attention or causing embarrassment to the young suspect. For instance, police may appear in plainclothes and use unmarked vehicles.”
Ms Sun added that the police will notify parents of the arrest and investigation of young suspects "at the earliest time possible", unless doing so could jeopardise investigations.