School officer to accompany students to meet police

Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng announced in Parliament that students who are called to the police station for interviews while they are in school, will be accompanied by a school officer familiar to them. These officers could be their
Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng announced in Parliament that students who are called to the police station for interviews while they are in school, will be accompanied by a school officer familiar to them. These officers could be their teachers, the year head or a school counsellor.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

The person will be familiar to them and will ensure 'proper handover' at police station

Students who are called to the police station for interviews while they are in school will be accompanied by a school officer familiar to them. These officers could be their teachers, the year head or a school counsellor.

Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng announced this in Parliament yesterday, as he updated the House on what the Ministry of Education (MOE) is doing to provide more support to students who are being investigated by the police.

Mr Ng said that the measures follow recommendations made by a multi-agency committee which had studied State Coroner Marvin Bay's suggestions to mitigate the risk for young suspects.

Coroner Bay had presided over the case of North View Secondary School student Benjamin Lim, who was found dead on Jan 26 last year, hours after being questioned at Ang Mo Kio Police Division for allegedly molesting an 11-year-old girl in a lift.

Benjamin was not accompanied by school officers to the police station, as it was not the practice then.

JUDGMENT CALL

If there is no Appropriate Adult present, the school counsellor will have to make a judgment call to stay with the young person until such an adult shows up.

MR NG CHEE MENG, Minister for Education (Schools).

The Ministry of Home Affairs last week announced a new scheme that will allow Appropriate Adults, who are independent, trained volunteers, to accompany young suspects during police interviews.

Mr Ng said the school officer will make sure that there is a "proper handover" at the police station as far as possible.

But if no Appropriate Adult is present, the school officer would "have to make a judgment call to stay with the young person until such an adult shows up", he said.

Whether the school officer will remain at the police station throughout the whole period will also depend on the circumstances at the time, he added.

Besides these measures, the school will provide the police with relevant information on the student being investigated, which will help them better understand the personal circumstances of the student, said Mr Ng.

He also said the police will inform the student's parents of the arrest as soon as possible.

The measures will go into effect next month in all primary and secondary schools, as well as junior colleges.

Non-Constituency MP Daniel Goh asked whether the school counsellor could be with the student throughout the police interview.

But Mr Ng said the school counsellor would be known to the student, and would not be considered a neutral party. Appropriate adults are required to remain neutral and not advocate for either side.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2017, with the headline 'School officer to accompany students to meet police'. Print Edition | Subscribe