The Benjamin Lim case: What happened?
Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam detailed in Parliament on Tuesday (March 1) what happened in the case of teenager Benjamin Lim.
The 14-year-old student was found dead at the foot of his block after he was questioned by police in January about a case of molest.
His death has led to questions from members of the public about the way Benjamin was picked up from his school by the police and whether there are proper protocols in place when interviewing young suspects.
A total of 13 Members of Parliament brought up the issue in Parliament, raising questions such as whether the police could have scheduled a later interview with Benjamin and his parents.
Mr Shanmugam said that on Jan 26, when the officers went to North View Secondary School, they were unaware of Benjamin's identity, whether or not he had previously molested anyone.
"If he had committed another molest, members would ask, 'Why didn't the police go down (to the school) faster,'" said Mr Shanmugam.
NCMP Dennis Tan asked when the review regarding the interview and handling of minors in police custody would be completed.
Mr Shanmugam said that he has told his officials that the review is currently underway but that they should hold back from making any decisions untill after the Coroner's Inquiry.
In his ministerial statement in Parliament, Mr Shanmugam revealed what exactly happened on the two days that led up to his tragic death.
On Jan 25, a police report was made by the father of an 11-year-old girl who had been molested in a lift.
Through CCTV footage, police identified the suspect to be a student wearing a North View Secondary School uniform.
The next day, on Jan 26, five police officers went down to the school.
Mr Shanmugam said three officers who were from the Yishun North Neighbour Police Centre and two from the Ang Mo Kio Division. All were in plainclothes and in an unmarked car.
Through a screenshot of the CCTV footage, school officials identified that the boy in the screenshot was Benjamin.
Contrary to other reports, Mr Shanmugam said the police officers were in plainclothes and that they traveled in an unmarked police car.
After Benjamin was identified, a school official brought him to the principal's office where only one police officer talked to him.
After which, the school principal advised Benjamin to call his mother.
The police officer spoke with the mother and told her that Benjamin would be brought to Ang Mo Kio Police Division to give his statement.
"Benjamin was then brought back to the station in an unmarked car, by three officers. One of the officers alighted along the way," said Mr Shanmugam.
He was interviewed at the officers workstation, which was located in an open plan office.
The workstation where Benjamin was interviewed by the police officer. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS
After asking for some time to recollect his thoughts, Benjamin gave his statement to the police at 12.15pm on Jan 26.
Mr Shanmugam emphasised that during his interview, Benjamin was not handcuffed and that he was offered food and drink.
He was placed in a Temporary Holding Room until his mother came to bail him out.
In all, Benjamin had spent about 3.5 hours in the police station.
Based on investigation, Mr Shanmugam said that Benjamin went home with his mother and sister, had lunch and then played games with his phone.
A school counsellor then called Benjamin's mother, after which she told Benjamin that he would not be going to the school camp the next day.
At about 4.20pm, Benjamin was found dead at the foot of his block.
Mr Shanmugam also addressed why despite intense public interest, and despite some erroneous statements made online, there had been no comments made by either the minister of his ministry.
"Out of respect for the family to give them some space and time and space to grieve ...there will be a Coroner's Inquiry. That is the right forum for the relevant facts to be dealt with."
Mr K. Shanmugam
Mr Shanmugam said that the Coroner's Inquiry will try to establish the cause of Benjamin's death.
He said that bearing in mind that there is a Coroner's Inquiry, the rules of Sub Judice generally preclude any discussions which may influence proceedings.
Although public officials can make statements out of interests of public statements, something which Mr Shanmugam said that he has done before, they have to do so within the principles of Sub Judice.
He went on to say that despite public pressure on the police to respond to the various assertions and allegations, they were right to not cave in and respond.
"I believe that they (the police officers) have carried out their duties faithfully in accordance with the rules and protocol," he said.
"If there are issues with protocol, the responsibility is mine. Let's not attack the police officers who cannot defend themselves," he added.
Acting Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng echoed Mr Shanmugam's statement about why the Ministry of Education chose to not publicly respond.