A 39-year-old crane operator is on trial for raping a 12-year-old in his car. “The minor had alleged that she had been raped in the back seat of the multi-purpose vehicle (MPV).” However, the police swabbed the front seat of the MPV for evidence instead. What was worse is that the police officer who was the investigating officer (IO), Station Insp Ng, forgot that he ordered for swabs to be taken. Station Insp Ng had earlier said that no swabs were taken.
And after Station Insp Ng finally remembered that swabs were actually taken, he could not recall where he left the swabs. “When queried by Deputy Public Prosecutor Jasmine Chin-Sabado, he said that he currently did not know where the swabs were – they could be misplaced or in his office.” Apparently, the swabs were in his personal cupboard for all of three years.
If this was an isolated case, it wouldn’t be as worrying. But it appeared that this wasn’t an isolated case. When asked in court if if it was “normal” for him to “overlook such things”, Station Insp Ng said that it was “common”. Station Insp Ng added: “(With) the amount of work that we do, we will probably overlook issues.”
How worrying is this?! You mean it is common that our police commits these sort of oversights regarding evidence? What impact do these common oversights have on the justice of our legal system? How many people have been wrongly prosecuted or let go because of these oversights in taking and handling evidence?
And this case isn’t the first case that showed that the police was shoddy in their investigative work. In 2012, a foreign worker, Haresh, was arrested and charged with rioting. His story was dramatized in the TV series “Verdict”. However, he wasn’t even at the crime scene. The co-accused testified that Haresh wasn’t at the crime scene. Haresh himself said that he was probably at a minimart at the time of the crime. There were numerous CCTVs at the area near where Haresh claimed he was as well as along the way between Haresh’s dorm and the crime scene. But it seemed that the police did not bother to check those footage to ascertain whether Haresh was where he claimed he was. Instead, it seemed that the police was more interested in selectively looking for evidence to prove Haresh’s guilt.
Fortunately for Haresh, his boss believed him, bailed him out and supported him throughout the case. His boss even held his job for him. And Haresh had a very good lawyer, Mr Mahesh Rai, defending him on a pro bono basis. To show that Haresh wasn’t even at the crime scene, the lawyer went to great lengths to find different pieces of evidence that the police appeared to overlook. Shouldn’t the police have done all of those before they charged Haresh? In the end, the prosecution dropped the charges because the prosecution realised that it wasn’t possible for Haresh to be at the crime scene.
Why didn’t the police do their job thoroughly and spared Haresh from the trauma of being arrested and charged for a crime he didn’t commit? If Haresh wasn’t so fortunate to have a such a good boss or to have met such a good lawyer as Mr Mahesh Rai, his life would have been ruined. As would the lives of all of his family members, who depend on him for their livelihood. How can our police be so shoddy in their investigative work? Just because they have many cases to handle? If that is the case, shouldn’t MHA think about increasing the capacity of the police force?
Having many cases cannot be an excuse for shoddy investigative work. It cannot be an excuse for overlooking issues in collecting and handling evidence. This incident, and others like it, call into question the ability of our police force, the integrity of our legal system, and may threaten the safety and security of Singaporeans. I think the police and the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) need to do a thorough review and make a public account to Singaporeans.
[Featured image: logo of the SPF]