Scheme to give more privacy and comfort to rape victims to be expanded

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam visiting the One-Stop Abuse Forensic Examination (OneSafe) Centre at the Police Cantonment Complex on Feb 22, 2018.
Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam visiting the One-Stop Abuse Forensic Examination (OneSafe) Centre at the Police Cantonment Complex on Feb 22, 2018.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

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

Starting 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 on Thursday (Feb 22), 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 has "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 was 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.

The interview room at the One-Stop Abuse Forensic Examination (OneSafe) Centre. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

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 investigate suspects in rape offences. Investigators from Bedok and Central divisions will also use it to interrogate suspects with mental disabilities.

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