'Consult parents if kids are in police probes'

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Parents feel they should be consulted if their school-going children are involved in police investigations.

They were speaking to The Straits Times after a parliamentary discussion on Tuesday about the death of 14-year-old North View Secondary School student Benjamin Lim, who was questioned by police in January over a molestation allegation.

Although parents appreciate that schools have protocols in place when a student is asked to assist in investigations, some pointed out that schools should not have the right to release a child to the police without their permission.

Currently, parental consent is not needed when police want to interview a student, Acting Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng said in Parliament on Tuesday.

Benjamin was taken into custody on Jan 26 for allegedly molesting an 11-year-old girl. His mother was notified and he was taken to Ang Mo Kio Police Division, unaccompanied by school staff or his parents.

After being released on bail, he was found dead at the foot of his family’s block later in the day.

Information technology manager Alex Yeo, 43, who has three children aged seven to 13, said: “Any parent would be upset if a school does not ask for permission and allows the police to take his child away. Perhaps the police could have gone to the boy’s house, instead of the school, later that day and he would have been under the care of his parents by then.”

In Parliament on Tuesday, Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam addressed these concerns, saying that when police went to the school in Yishun, they did not know Benjamin was the boy who appeared in closed-circuit TV footage they had retrieved.

“If the police wait, and he molests someone else in the meantime, the question would be why the police did not move faster,” he added.

Some parents agreed with this stance, saying they would have wanted the case to be settled as soon as possible if they were the girl’s parents.

Part-time tutor Judy Ho, 43, who has a 14-year-old daughter, said: “The police have to do their job and answer to the other party involved. They can’t be waiting for the parents to show up at the school.”

Housewife Fanny Chan, 45, who has four children aged seven to 17, said she understood that police had to act with urgency, but added that the boy may not have known how to react in such situations.

“If a parent can’t be there, a teacher whom he is familiar with should have gone along,” she said.

Others asked for police protocols to be reviewed, calling for schools to ensure that a student is accompanied by an adult throughout any investigations.

Engineer Robert Tan, 54, who has three sons aged two to 12, said: “Investigations need to be conducted as fast as possible but you could have kept the boy in the school, and not let him get away.”

On Tuesday, Mr Ng said: “It is not the practice of the police to allow teachers or school staff to be with the student in the police car.

“Current police protocols do not allow other persons to be present when the student is undergoing questioning at the police station.”

calyang@sph.com.sg

yuensin@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on March 3, 2016.
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Thursday, March 3, 2016 – 15:48
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