According to StraitsTimes.com, there’s a disagreement in the community about who should accompany children when they are taken for questioning by the police. The issue came to the forefront after 14-year-old Benjamin Lim committed suicide shortly after being questioned by police.

An Interrogation and a Suicide

Officers at Ang Mo Kio Police Division were asking Lim about an allegation of molestation, but no other adults or family members were present while police were questioning the teen. After he was allowed to leave the police station, Lim jumped to his death.

The Coroner’s Recommendation

State Coroner Marvin Bay investigated the death and included a recommendation in his findings, suggested that a school counsellor or other trusted adult should accompany any child or teen taken in for questioning. Everyone involved in the debate seems to agree that an adult should go with the child, but there is dissonance in the discussion when it comes to the choice of the adult.

Suppose that a child is picked up at school by police and driven to the police station so that police can get the facts for an ongoing investigation. Such a scenario would be understandably traumatic for the child. Mental health experts in Singapore claim that having a trusted adult along could calm and reassure the child, protecting them from lasting mental trauma associated with the event. In addition, having a familiar adult makes the child more comfortable, more willing to talk, and more likely to give police the honest answers they need.

The Problem with Parent Presence

So why can’t the parent be the adult in the room during police questioning? In some cases, the parents may be involved in the case, and their presence could prevent the child from speaking freely and giving honest answers to police. In other situations, even if the case doesn’t involve the parent, the mom or dad’s presence in the room could hinder openness on the child’s part and hamper the police investigation.

The Possibility of Third-Party Attendance

One criminal lawyer, Sunil Sudheesan, suggested that “independent people without vested interests in the case” should be present in the room during the questioning of a child. He mentioned to Appropriate Adult Scheme, which applies to mentally disabled individuals. This system employs trained volunteers who go with mentally disabled individuals when they are required to speak with police. The movement, though related to mental health in Singapore, could also set a helpful precedent for cases of child or teen questioning by police.

A trained, independent adult in the room during the interview provides accountability for police as well as security for the child. The third-party adult could observe the proceedings, take notes about the line of questioning, and possibly communicate with the child’s parents to let them know where the child is and what is occurring. More consideration and research will be necessary before this idea is implemented, but the process is in motion, which is good news for families in Singapore.

The Importance of Mental Health Care for Youth

If you know of a child or teen who is struggling with depression, trauma, or anxiety, don’t wait until the child feels trapped and despairs of life. Bring that young person to Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic where we specialise in working with women and children. We also employ both pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy techniques such as EMDR and CBT to help people cope with trauma.  Under the care of a counsellor or psychiatrist in Singapore, a teen or child can express those negative feelings, overcome them, and move toward better mental health.

News Feed from Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic

Source: Straits Times, August 20, 2016