Police ignorant of law but charge activists anyway

Singapore Democrats

We have reported in this website the incompetence of our police officers when it comes to their prosecution of their cases against the SDP leaders and activists.

They lied in their testimonies, don’t know what offences the defendants had committed, copied each other’s reports (together with the errors), and hid behind imaginary glass doors. Their capers would be funny if they weren’t so serious. And if you think they are ludicrous, wait till you read what happened in the latest round.In the on-going trial involving the Tak Boleh Tahan protest outside Parliament House on 15 Mar 08, ASP Yew Ai Choo, the Investigating Officer, had charged the Defendants with taking part in an illegal assembly and procession.

The protest was over the escalating cost of living in Singapore in 2008 and held in conjunction with the World Consumers Rights Day. It took place, as ASP Yew stated in his charge, within an area that prohibits the gathering of more than one person

This area (bounded by North Bridge Road, Stamford Road, Connaught Drive, St Andrew’s Road, Parliament Lane and the Singapore River) is described in a Schedule published by the Government in 2005.

There was one small hitch. ASP Yew was not aware that there was such an area. Indeed he didn’t even known that the Schedule existed. Under cross-examination by Dr Chee Soon Juan, the police officer admitted that he had no idea that there was such a law.

Chee: When did you first see the Schedule?

Yew: In March 2008.

Chee: Was it during your investigation of the case that you first saw it?

Yew: Yes.

Chee: So prior to 15 March 2008, you did not see this Schedule?

Yew: Yes.

Chee: If u did not see the Schedule before 15 March 2008 you would not know of the area described in the Schedule, would you?

Yew: Yes, I was not aware.

: Is this the same Schedule that you refer to in your charge?

Yew: Yes

Mind you, this was not a junior officer who had only an incidental interest in the case. Mr Yew was a senior officer at the Central Police Division assigned to investigate it.

The charge also stated that the Defendants “ought reasonably” to have known that there was no permit given for the event.

Isn’t it the height of hypocrisy that ASP Yew expected the Defendants to reasonably know something when he didn’t know about the gazetted area that he himself had referred to in his charge?

This might be something one would expect to read in a comic book. But alas, it was all too real. How do the police charge someone when they don’t know the law themselves?

That was not all. Even though he had seen the Schedule and relied on it in his charge, he didn’t know that it contained a non-existent road.

In 1999, “Parliament Lane” was changed to “Old Parliament Lane”. An official from the Finance Ministry (which is responsible for changes of road names) had testified that she had written a letter to all the relevant government agencies to inform them of the alteration.

In 2005, however, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) was still using “Parliament Lane” in the Schedule, signed by Second Permanent Secretary Mr Benny Lim, when the road had not been in existence for six years.

It is open to the Defence to argue that because of this, the area outside Parliament House was never a gazetted area on 15 March 2008. And since the charge relies on the Schedule, it is an erroneous charge that cannot stand.

If there was a prize for incompetence, the MHA and police would kill the competition.

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