Custody of elderly woman: Family finds closure after viewing police video

Madam Gertrude Simon with her mother, Madam Josephine Savarimuthu.
Madam Gertrude Simon with her mother, Madam Josephine Savarimuthu. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

The woman whose 73-year-old mother was arrested for a municipal offence viewed police footage yesterday and accepted that it clearly showed her mother was not physically restrained at any time while in police custody.

Madam Gertrude Simon, 55, who had all along maintained that her mother had been handcuffed by the police, attended a briefing with her mother at the Ang Mo Kio South Neighbourhood Police Centre (NPC).

Madam Simon said: "I appreciate the unprecedented gesture made by the police to show me the video recordings of the sequence of events during the time when my mother was in police custody."

She added: "Based on the police video shown, it is clear that my mum was not physically restrained at any time when she was in their custody."

Singapore Prison Service (SPS) officers, who were also at the briefing, had clarified that physical restraints were used by their officers in accordance with current SPS procedures during the two occasions when her mother, Madam Josephine Savarimuthu, was transported between the State Courts and Changi Women's Prison.

Madam Simon said she was gratified by the transparency displayed by the authorities in coming forward to share their footage and information.

"It has helped to bring a good closure to this unfortunate episode of events," she added.

Madam Savarimuthu was arrested by police on March 4 at the same NPC while making a report for a lost pawn ticket. There, it emerged that there was an outstanding warrant of arrest against her issued by the court last year.

It was for failing to attend court, relating to a town council summons for $400 - for the wrongful placement of potted plants outside her flat.

Madam Simon explained that her mother was still traumatised and could have mixed up the details of what she went through.

She said: "I do understand that if my mother had been able to provide details of her relatives earlier at the police centre, then we could have bailed her immediately and avoided this suffering for her."

Madam Simon urged the authorities to review whether elderly persons can be exempted from physical restraints when in custody.

"Law enforcement officers must also be able to exercise discretion for varying situations on the ground," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 18, 2017, with the headline 'Custody of elderly woman: Family finds closure after viewing police video'. Print Edition | Subscribe