One-stop centre for rape victims to be enhanced

The One-Stop Abuse Forensic Examination Centre, which allows victims to be examined medically and lodge a police report, will have doctors from three hospitals on standby from May 1.
The One-Stop Abuse Forensic Examination Centre, which allows victims to be examined medically and lodge a police report, will have doctors from three hospitals on standby from May 1.
Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam viewing the interview room where statements will be recorded on video and can be used in court processes.
Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam viewing the interview room where statements will be recorded on video and can be used in court processes.

A scheme that makes it easier for victims to report sexual crimes will be expanded to better ensure their privacy and comfort.

From May 1, the One-Stop Abuse Forensic Examination (OneSafe) Centre, which allows victims to be examined medically and lodge a police report at the same time, will have doctors from three hospitals on standby to tend to rape victims.

In the pilot programme, only doctors from Singapore General Hospital were available. Doctors from National University Hospital and KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH) will be added to the roster.

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam, who visited the facility at the Police Cantonment Complex yesterday, said: "We want to make the (recounting of the experience) as painless as possible."

With the expansion, the centre is set to help 90 per cent of victims of sexual crimes, up from 25 per cent during the pilot.

In 2016, the police solved all 149 reported cases of sexual assault. Last year, police solved all but one of the 191 cases.

"That one case was 30 years old," said Mr Shanmugam, adding that the police have "done very well in solving the cases".

A police spokesman said victims' privacy can be better protected at the centre, as they do not have to go to two separate venues - a police station and a hospital - in order to make a report.

The spokesman also urged victims to make reports within 72 hours after the crime has been committed to increase the chances of capturing the offender.

Mr Shanmugam also saw the interview room where statements will be recorded on video and can be used in court processes.

The Home Affairs Ministry will start using the room for investigations once the proposed changes to the Criminal Procedure Code take effect, according to a spokesman.

The interview subject will sit in front of a digital clock that tells the time, date and temperature of the room, which will be monitored by cameras and mirrors capturing all angles of it.

These features ensure that suspects are interviewed without undue pressure, for instance by the room temperature being allegedly lowered to make him uncomfortable, thus removing any question about the interview process.

For a start, officers from the Criminal Investigation Department will use the interview room to speak to suspects in rape offences.

Investigators from Bedok and Central police divisions will also use the room to interrogate suspects with mental disabilities.

Mr Shanmugam said: "It is a major change, and I think that the bar will welcome it."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 23, 2018, with the headline 'One-stop centre for rape victims to be enhanced'. Print Edition | Subscribe