Singapore

More volunteers needed to help young suspects

While Appropriate Adults (AAs) have been called upon 46 times to support young suspects during police interviews in the first three weeks of a new scheme, these involved only 24 out of 143 trained volunteers.

The problem - some AAs did not respond when activated.

Even though AAs were expected to be activated only four times in a year, some have had to handle two cases in one day since the scheme was launched on April 17 at several police and Central Narcotics Bureau divisions for a start.

This has led the Singapore Children's Society (SCS), which runs the scheme, to appeal for more AAs to respond, to help ease the crunch.

The activation works this way: When police contact SCS through its 24-hour hotline, an SCS representative matches AAs with the needs of the case, including language. AAs then have to arrive at police stations within 90 minutes of an activation.

For complicated cases, or if no AA responds to an activation, SCS said it counts on 16 of its staff, who include youth social workers who are also AAs.

The scheme for suspects younger than 16 was set up after an inter-agency review of investigation processes following the death of schoolboy Benjamin Lim, 14, last year.

He was found dead at the foot of his block of flats hours after police questioned him over an alleged molestation case.

AAs undergo around six hours of training before they are confirmed. When activated, they sit by a young suspect's side during the police interview, and may intervene if the suspect appears agitated or unable to understand a question.

SCS youth worker Lo Feng Ying was activated in the week of its roll-out. She found herself accompanying a six-year-old boy as he was questioned at the Bedok Police Division. He was the youngest of the 46 young people who needed AAs in the first three weeks of the scheme.

"While he was talking, he would look to me," recalled the 26-year-old.

"When I smiled at him, he continued speaking."

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