Parliament: New police scheme to help vulnerable suspects sees 41 cases in six months

 A new police scheme to help vulnerable suspects with intellectual disabilities or mental disorders was fully implemented in May 2015.
A new police scheme to help vulnerable suspects with intellectual disabilities or mental disorders was fully implemented in May 2015.FILE PHOTO: SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE

SINGAPORE - A new police scheme to help vulnerable suspects with intellectual disabilities or mental disorders, regardless of age, has been used 41 times in the first six months of this year.

The Appropriate Adults Scheme (AAS) was progressively rolled out in January and fully implemented in May.

The scheme has 136 support people who are recruited and managed by the Law Society, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean in a written reply to Parliament on Tuesday. These comprise volunteers from voluntary welfare organisations, special education teachers, caregivers and grassroots leaders.

Mr Teo, who is also the Minister for Home Affairs, was replying to Nominated MP Chia Yong Yong, who had asked what was the police protocol in investigations involving suspects who suffer from disorders like autism spectrum disorders.

She also wanted to know what is being done to make it easier for an early assessment before the suspect is charged in court, "so as to prevent a conviction prior to any such assessment especially in relation to young persons who can be suffering from such disorders".

Neither Ms Chia nor Mr Teo named anyone. But the question is timely following the case of blogger Amos Yee, 16, who walked free from the State Courts last week after having spent 50 days in remand.

Out of the 50 days, he spent two weeks at the Institute of Mental Health after a psychiatric assessment suggested he had autism spectrum disorder.

Last week, he was sentenced to four weeks' in jail - which was backdated - for making offensive remarks against Christianity in an expletive-laden video and uploading an obscene image on his blog.

Mr Teo said yesterday that in deciding whether to activate the support persons under AAS, the police will first ask the suspect or his next-of-kin to disclose any previous treatment for intellectual disabilities or mental disorders.

The police will also check the Developmental Disability Registry database under the National Council of Social Services, he added.

But for those without known medical records, the police will make an assessment based on whether the suspect shows behaviour that suggest intellectual disabilities or mental disorders, he said.

The police will then submit its findings to the Attorney-General's Chambers, which has the final say on whether to charge the suspect in court.

waltsim@sph.com.sg