Relook how elderly suspects are treated when detained

I am deeply saddened and shocked by the events that took place on March 4.

My mother is 73 years old, frail and suffers from a host of medical conditions.

That morning, she went to the Ang Mo Kio South Neighbourhood Police Centre to report a lost pawn shop ticket.

However, the officer-in-charge informed her that there was a warrant of arrest issued against her in 2015 for failing to appear for a court hearing on a town council-related matter.

They did not provide her with any further details of the offence.

She was detained and taken to the Ang Mo Kio Police Station and, from there, to the State Courts, before being remanded at Changi Women's Prison (CWP).

While in custody, my mother was stressed and overwhelmed, and was unable to recall the contact details of any of her relatives.

Hence, it was only later that afternoon, after we were contacted by a CWP staff member, that we found out about my mother's whereabouts.

She was remanded over the weekend and was not allowed any visits. She was taken to the State Courts on March 6, where bail was offered.

Thankfully, the prison officials had placed my mother in the medical ward, so she received her daily doses of medicine.

My elderly mother was traumatised by the incident.

There is a serious need for the police and government agencies to re-examine the procedures involving our elderly.

When elderly suspects are detained, factors like their age, health and mental state, along with the seriousness of the offence, need to be considered.

Their sudden detention and lack of access to their loved ones can be very traumatic.

Their next-of-kin must be contacted; if necessary, the elderly person should be taken home to retrieve phone records.

This would make it easier to make bail arrangements and avoid the need for him to be taken to prison.

Furthermore, when my mother was moved between the police station, CWP and the court, she was handcuffed and had leg restraints on.

It is appalling that a weak old woman was subjected to such harsh treatment.

Law enforcement officers must be empowered to exercise flexibility to handle such cases with empathy and more humane considerations.

I hope our pioneer generation members will not be subjected to such an ordeal in future.

Gertrude Simon (Madam)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2017, with the headline 'Relook how elderly suspects are treated when detained'. Print Edition | Subscribe