Atrocious police work: murder conviction overturned

The Straits Times did the right thing to put the story on the front page, for it is a very serious case.

Ismil Kadar was acquitted of murder by the Court of Appeal after spending six years in jail facing the death penalty. The judges slammed the police investigators and the prosecution for more than sloppiness in building the case against him, questioning their motives as well.

Ismil and his brother Muhamad Kadar had been found guilty of murder by common intention in the 2005 killing of an elderly woman, Tham Weng Kuen, 69, while robbing her home. Her bedridden husband was in the flat as it happened, fully aware of what was happening but unable to help his wife.

Describing the case as ‘extraordinary’, Justice V. K. Rajah said the 42-year-old’s confessions were obtained ‘in troubling circumstances’ which appeared to be deliberate breaches in procedures rather than mere carelessness.

He added that investigators had been ‘less than thorough’ and said there was a ‘startling lack of any objective evidence’ that tied Mr Ismil to the crime.

— Straits Times, 6 July 2011, Man accused of murder freed after 6 years in jail, by Selina Lum

The judges also noted that there was a witness statement from the bedridden husband that there was only one intruder — and he had a sightline to the front door from his bed — which was suppressed by the prosecution until the very last minute and then dismissed  by the trial court when it would have exonerated at least one, if not both the brothers.

This case is so important that I am imaging two articles from the Straits Times and one from Today newspaper here, rather than quote them at length. Straits Times article #1Straits Times arrticle #2; story from Today newspaper.

Troubling questions arise at three different levels:

The first is that of police procedures. As the news reports indicate, their work is undisciplined and apparently unsupervised. In this particular case, the appeal judges criticised the way interviews were conducted in vehicles and statements recorded on slips of paper, before transferring to proper records days later. No precautions were taken to ensure that the accused, with below-average IQ, understood the questions and implications, nor that he was free from under the influence of drugs when interrogated.

It’s all very well to say we have neat procedures on paper — though even the fairness of these are disputed as I will come to further down — but when in even such a serious case as murder they are wantonly flouted, it is hard to deny that there exists a widespread culture of impunity and disregard for integrity throughout the police force.

Such would be scandalous anywhere except that our official departments can usually rely on a compliant mainstream media never to do investigative journalism. The report in today’s newspaper is exceptional because we have one institution (the courts) criticising another (the police) and the newspaper is thus free to report (in neutral language) the criticisms. But don’t hold your breath about reporters digging deeper if see how far the cancer has spread.

Yet it is precisely this immunity from public and media scrutiny that breeds the sense of impunity in the police.

* * * * *

A small but related digression:

Just last night I was looking at a police statement made by a migrant worker from Bangladesh and I was appalled how badly it had been done.

The worker had had his foot crushed by a lorry that ran into him while he is cycling to work. Coming to a bend in the road, the lorry, perhaps travelling at speed, misjudged the curve and instead of turning within its lane, leaned in towards the worker and knocked him down.

The police statement recorded that the worker had missed his company transport that day and that was why he was going to work on a bicycle. This was pure fiction. The company did not provide transport at all; he always went to work on his bicycle after riding the train to Marina Bay Station. The fact that the guy had his bike parked overnight at the station would tell you it was his regular route. Yet, by making it sound like the worker should not have been cycling on the road in the first place, it could potentially reduce the lorry driver’s culpability.

The other thing that the worker told me as he related the accident to me was that the lorry came from behind him, but the police statement made no mention of that, and instead gave the impression that the lorry and bicyclist had been travelling alongside each other.

No interpreter was provided to the worker when he was interviewed. He was unable to fully comprehend what the police constable wrote in English, and in any case, his signature was nowhere to be found on the statement even though it says he should sign it. This may be a small case compared to murder, yet the statement would be central to the worker’s legal claim in future. With a foot crushed, his future chances of earning a decent living is severely affected.

It shouldn’t matter whether a case is major or minor. Quality standards in police work must be maintained at all times.

* * * * *

The Law Society had issued a report recently pushing for changes to police procedures. Among the many proposals, it argued that an accused must first be given an opportunity to consult with counsel before being interviewed, and that all interviews should be audio-taped. In serious cases, they should be videotaped.

Has the government adopted these recommendations? I don’t know because I have not been following the matter. Can any reader advise?

In the Ismil Kadar case, the Court of Appeal also had harsh words about how the prosecution did its work.

In a strongly worded 152-page statement, the judges also criticised the way prosecutors had conducted the trial, particularly, the “disappointing” decision not to disclose [the husband] Mr Loh’s three police statements to defence lawyers until 18 months into the trial.

Mr Loh had given detailed accounts in those statements of the sole assailant’s appearance and the one-hour attack on his wife. The judges stressed that the duty of prosecutors was “not to secure a conviction at all costs” but to “assist the court in coming to the correct decision”.

— Today newspaper, 6 July 2011, Elderly houseiwfe’s murder: Man freed, brother to be hanged, by Teo Xuanwei

The Law Society had also recommended that police and prosecutors be required to provide fuller disclosure of the evidence they had against accused persons, including such evidence that could potentially exonerate them.

Finally,at the third level,  the case is troubling because of the questions it raises about all other capital cases. Ismil had the benefit of a persevering Legal Aid lawyer helping him over six years. How many Legal Aid lawyers would show the same degree of dedication? If a man can be so easily convicted and sentenced to hang by a trial court even when the prosecution case looks as sloppy as this, how can any one of us be sure that there aren’t other cases of wrongful conviction?

It is true that Singaporeans seem to have a high level of trust in our governmental and judicial institutions, but I think that trust is misplaced. It is the result of a mainstream media singing the praises of these institutions over decades. Put their work under a microscope, and it can look sickening rotten.

Once in a while a superior court might do the right thing and uncover a nest of worms, but just because this happens occasionally is no cause to believe that all worms have been dug out.

Note, for example, how in acquitting Ismil, the court reaffirmed the conviction of his brother Muhammad, who now joins death row. Yet if police work was sloppy with Ismil’s case, wouldn’t it stand to reason that it was likely also sloppy with Muhammad? Wouldn’t it have been the same investigation team that interrogated him? When the court said there was no objective evidence, how reliable can the conviction of Muhammad be?

As at the time of writing, the written judgement is not yet on the Supreme Court’s website. [Update 12 July 2011: The judgement is now available here in Microsoft Word format].  Perhaps it will reveal more of how the appeal court came to reaffirm the conviction of Muhammad. Let’s wait and see.

But what is as clear as day by now is that the police and the prosecution do not deserve our trust.

58 Responses to “Atrocious police work: murder conviction overturned”

  1. 1 Desmond 6 July 2011 at 16:08

    It is so funny, I was just telling my colleagues that the Singapore Police Force is only good for keeping the opposition in check and also to ensure people wearing “black t-shirts” not get into Starbucks.

    This article really proves the point that the Police don’t put manpower into things that matter but on things their masters want them to.

  2. 4 Chanel 6 July 2011 at 17:32

    Two unrelated puzzles:

    1) Why aren’t police interrogations video taped?

    2) Was Ismil Kadar’s low IQ highlighted previously and wouldn’t that alone have a huge impactin terms of sentencing?

    • 5 yawningbread 6 July 2011 at 17:45

      Don’t you know, when it comes to murder and drug charges above 15g of heroin, judges have no discretion on sentencing?

      • 6 Poker Player 6 July 2011 at 18:23

        Given the social backgrounds of our judges, I don’t see how giving them discretion helps.

        This happened a long time ago, can someone recall the details?

        4 boys in late teens charged for the same crime as a group. Two from privileged backgrounds, two from dysfunctional families. Two completely different sentences (guess which two got the far better deal) with the lamest reasons.

      • 7 Anonymous 6 July 2011 at 19:32

        Shockingly, it’s true. And shockingly, a lot of people don’t know it.

  3. 8 Anonymous 6 July 2011 at 17:52

    Ismil should explore the option to sue the government for compensation. It was reported previously that an ex-convict received government compensation for the extra strokes wrongly administered to him.

    The government should open a public inquiry as to why and how such things could happen as Singapore’s justice sits once again in the dock.

    • 9 aeroster 11 July 2011 at 15:08

      what,they caned someone wrongfully??they ought to be whipped themselves!!this kind of thing cannot be joked!!dont implement extreme punishments if u cant double confirm ur verdicts to be accurate!!

  4. 10 Loh 6 July 2011 at 18:02

    The case is indeed troubling and puts our police force in a very bad light. I hope the opposition MPs will bring it up in parliament and demand for a thorough review of investigation procedures. Not only that, they should also re-examine mandatory death sentences. Capital punishment is too severe a sentence to be based on such sloppy police work. And it isn’t the first time they were so sloppy with their jobs. Besides the Mas Selamat case, they let the prime suspect (Ah Hao) in a murder case (Huang Na) escaped whilst being escorted by 4 detectives. Our police force is a bloody joke.

    • 11 aeroster 11 July 2011 at 15:10

      huh,imagine them putting someone wrongfully to death.i hope they get haunted and their descendants cursed for the rest of their lives.same for abusive mods

  5. 12 teo soh lung 6 July 2011 at 18:36

    How many innocents have gone to the gallows? I agree with Alex about the danger of affirming the conviction of Muhammad. If the police can succeed in nearly hanging one person, is it safe to believe them at all?

  6. 13 nicebutwhat 6 July 2011 at 18:46

    SPF only concerns with cases which will bring a lot of $$$ or weakening the grip of power of pappies.

    6 years loss, how would SPF or government compensate this man???

  7. 14 Tan Tai Wei 6 July 2011 at 19:45

    The motive behind this could have only been to appear proficient at the job. Doesn’t it cause us to wonder what had really happened in those past “political” cases where pleasing the powers-that-be could be the additional motive? And it is not only the police. The AG’s office also, and the judges who let it all pass under their noses.

  8. 15 Anonymous 6 July 2011 at 20:15

    The “Men In Blue” in Singapore, are “Mentally Inept Bas***ds”. Pisses me off whenever I see them. Why? Simply because they are so full of themselves that they can’t even walk properly…they swagger like some goddamn bully. Yet, they can’t even take down a simple statement without distorting facts. Got their brains in their ass, and thumbs up their buddies’ ass.

  9. 16 ManInBlack 6 July 2011 at 20:17

    The “Men In Blue” in Singapore, are “Mentally Inept Bas***ds”. Pisses me off whenever I see them. Why? Simply because they are so full of themselves that they can’t even walk properly…they swagger like some goddamn bully. Yet, they can’t even take down a simple statement without distorting facts. Got their brains in their ass, and thumbs up their buddies’ ass.

  10. 18 Sgcynic 6 July 2011 at 21:02

    Indeed, one can’t help but view the police as a special arm at someone’s disposal. Recall how and the number or riot police mobilized against the SDP. Compare the speed at which the elections department and the police go after James Gomez in the the 2006 elections vs the cautionary pace at which they are investigating complaints against Ting Pei Ling. Nary a sound after 2 months.

    Checks and balances must be in place. While we do not want to tie the hands of the police and reduce their effectiveness, we cannot err on the side of giving the police unrestrained freedom that simply defies common sense and justice.

  11. 19 ET 6 July 2011 at 21:34

    Does YB therefore disagree with this statement in an article in the Singapore Law Review?

    “Besides tunnel vision, improper investigation techniques and police misconduct can lead and have led to wrongful convictions.[53]. However, Singapore’s small size—such that any minor wrongdoing is magnified in the eyes of the public—combined with a government that upholds strict values and standards, helps keep police misconduct in check. Tight control can be maintained over each division and member in the police force because of its relative smallness.”

    Click to access WrongfulConvictionsInSingapore%5B1%5D.pdf

    • 20 yawningbread 6 July 2011 at 22:06

      This is the kind of statement that is too often found in Singapore. It aims to assert that wrongful convictions are few, but it does so, not by citing statistics, but by citing the theoretical reasons why wrongful convictions OUGHT to be few. There’s a shocking confusion of theory with an empirical result. It’s like saying: in theory our drainage system works wonderfully, therefore the incidence of floods is nil.

      It is not for me to agree or disagree with this statement. It is for the party who makes the first assertion — the author or the Singapore Law Review — to support his assertion to make it convincing.

      • 21 Robox 7 July 2011 at 00:01

        [“This statement] aims to assert that wrongful convictions are few, but it does so, not by citing statistics, but by citing the theoretical reasons why wrongful convictions OUGHT to be few.”

        I don’t even know if the reasons advanced for why wrongful convictions are few – “a government that upholds strict values and standards” in this case – can be referred to as “theoretical reasons”. To me, it had always felt more like “mythological reasons” which have the primary objective of lionizing the PAP government and its administration.

        Indeed, that is what I feel has continued to play out in this very case: As stated in your conclusion, while one man has been freed from the gallows on the basis of police misconduct, his brother will nevertheless be hanged.

        No police misconduct to suspect there because Ismil’s is a minor blip in the otherwise impeccable and infallible public administration.

      • 22 Whos afraid of the astroturfers? 9 July 2011 at 18:12

        I don’t like ROBOX. Trying to smoke out readers.

  12. 23 We Can't handle the Truth 6 July 2011 at 21:47

    I once made a police report. I was amazed at the quality.

    But you have to actually make one (police report) to convince yourself.

    If I tell you, no Singaporean will believe me. Such is the blind faith of Singaporeans.

  13. 24 deathmule 6 July 2011 at 22:24

    Having the right procedures is no substitute for proper independent checks and balances. Obviously his case resolution rate is one of a policeman’s KPI, just as winning cases is one of a prosecutor’s. What’s there to stop abuses in a system as one-sided as ours?

    It’s not clear from the reports, but I’m pretty sure Ismil did not have legal counsel until he was charged, or almost ready to be charged. How could this be right in a serious case, let alone a capital case?

    It is not just an abuse of procedure, but also a gross abuse of Ismil’s human right for the police to conduct their investigation in this manner, and for the prosecution to suppress evidence that they knew would most likely lead to acquittal. It’s truly disturbing that our police and prosecutors are willing to put someone who’s innocent on death row.

    Teo Chee Hean was in the news today, but obviously no local journalist would dare to ask him about this case. The question is, as ordinary citizens, what other things can we do beyond fulminating in blogs like this? What is our leverage point, besides the once-every-5-years GE in which the justice system are hardly ever an issue.

  14. 25 sieteocho 6 July 2011 at 22:52

    I was told by a friend in the admin service: the government has problems filling in positions in the operational sectors. (I guess the SPF would also count.) So it’s well and good we have ppl here and there highlighting many things that could be done better. But they are merely symptoms of the larger problem of getting good people.

    Personally I think they have a problem because they privilege policy making as an elite status occupation within the civil service, rather than people who actually do hands on work.

  15. 26 Alan Koh 6 July 2011 at 23:36

    Say what you want about the police, but the prosecution service is not what it was just six years ago. I think we can all look forward to some rather sweeping changes in prosecution policy under our new Attorney-General, who is an enlightened man (and quite a charmer, I must admit). Recent decisions by the star-studded Court of Appeal would also fuel changes. I would urge some patience and restraint while the good men and women who have come into positions of power and authority since 2005 (the critical cutoff date for many reasons) work out the mess.

    • 27 Poker Player 12 July 2011 at 10:45

      Is there any factual or logical content in this comment? Sounds like internal organizational policticking and campaigning spilling onto blogs.

      Notice the “BG Tan” comment in another article.

      Keep petty internal ministerial politics out of this blog.

  16. 28 Robox 6 July 2011 at 23:37

    “Describing the case as ‘extraordinary’, Justice V. K. Rajah said the 42-year-old’s confessions were obtained ‘in troubling circumstances’…”

    I fail to see what is extraordinary about this case apart from the outcome of the trial. As I read the newspaper articles when it was first published, I couldn’t help but see the striking similarties to other controversial court cases – the many politically motivated cases against opposition parties and their members, the Vignes Mourthi case, etc. – with regards to the conduct of the police, only this time the courts have not colluded with the incompetents from the Third World police force called the SPF.

    The same elements of gross police – as well as judicial – misconduct existed in those other cases as well:

    1. the lack of any objective evidence;
    2. crucial information constituting evidence being witheld;
    2. procedural unfairness; and,
    3. the suspect motives held by the police which presumably is a reference to obtaining a conviction at all costs.

    (While not relevant in this case, we could add “blatant disregard for constitutional rights” to the list of usual police and judicial misconduct.)

    Exactly as I, along with many others have been asserting, this is a problem that should be regraded as “systemic” in nature because it is the product of a flawed culture. The conduct of the police in the above case is hardly isolated to this one case.

    But I remain with mixed feelings about this story. While this progress is really the result of of pressure from online activists, I have to wonder at how those treated unjustly in the past and were convicted on those bases can be compensated.

    • 29 Whos afraid of the astroturfers? 9 July 2011 at 18:22

      I fail to see what you are talking about.
      What flawed culture you are talking about?
      Pressure from online activists?
      Are you trying to imply that this news published in the STs were the result of online activitsts?

  17. 30 prettyplace 7 July 2011 at 00:18

    I think the SPF should be sued. There must be serious damage claims and be paid. It will be, one way to stop this rot.
    Since, the guys are paid decent wages the least they can do is a proper job. Incompetent and nonchalent attitude is time and again revealed.

    This will only stop, if the SPF is made to pay the price as well. However i must admit, most officers have been tamed,knowing the law now, unfortunately there some who think they are smarter then the system.

  18. 31 Sad case 7 July 2011 at 01:06

    The investigators, other officers and head involved in Ismil’s case must be demoted or sacked. A warning is not good enough. Even though Ismil is of low IQ, his life is as worthy as anyone else. Why must he be subjected to years spent behind the bars for wrong conviction? Who can compensate him the time that he could live like all free men instead of being misunderstood as a cold blooded killer?

  19. 32 Daniel L 7 July 2011 at 01:08

    I went to attend a trial the other day and I had a Swiss army knife in my bag. I didn’t know that there would be metal detectors (they weren’t there when I went to court 10 years ago). Upon seeing them, I went straight to the Aetos guard and told him that I had a swiss knife in my bag and asked if he could just keep it in the valuables locker.

    I spent the next hour waiting for and being questioned by a team of 5 Investigating Officers who made their way down from Police Cantomnent Complex. They asked me all sorts of questions including where I got the knife (army issue) why did they issue it (for.. training?) who issued it to me (err.. it was issued to the whole company? No specific person) Who was in charge of your company (my OC?) what was your OC’s name (err… hello is any of this really relevant?). They then seized the knife, photographed it and asked me to collect it from Police Contonment Complex a couple hours later.

    5 officers. Didn’t they have better things to do with their time? Couldn’t the 2 SPF constables who were on the scene in the first 5 minutes immediately tell it was an innocent mistake? Was it really neccesary to send down a whole team to investigate the matter? I even declared it voluntarily.

    They shouldn’t sweat the small stuff and concentrate on real police work.

    • 33 rglelin 7 July 2011 at 11:10

      Agreed that much energy and time is spent sweating the small stuff, but the balance is really hard to achieve… When it comes to security measures its the rigidity and meticulousness to details that determines how successful they are.

      I for one abhor going to government buildings with their overly uptight security guards who would refuse to allow you to park at an empty spot, even if you are simply delivering a simple parcel that would take only 2 mins. They demand that the vehicle be inspected and parked at designated lots that could be miles away… However, as much as I hate it, I recognise the need for the measure. Not too sure how we can ensure security without causing inconvenience…

  20. 34 CY 7 July 2011 at 02:59

    In response to the author’s concern as quoted below:

    “The Law Society had issued a report recently pushing for changes to police procedures. Among the many proposals, it argued that an accused must first be given an opportunity to consult with counsel before being interviewed, and that all interviews should be audio-taped. In serious cases, they should be videotaped.

    Has the government adopted these recommendations? I don’t know because I have not been following the matter. Can any reader advise?”


    The Law Society made these recommendations with regards to the Draft Criminal Procedure Code Bill 2009. The final version of the bill is the Criminal Procedure Code 2010 (CPC 2010), which came into effect on 2nd Jan 2011. The entire Act can be accessed using the link below:

    There is seemingly no mention of the recommendations made by the Law Society within the CPC 2010. The recommendations state that
    1) Any person(s), upon being informed about his charge, has the right to also be informed by the police (or relevant investigating authority) that he has the right to “consult a legal practitioner” (as stated in Article 9 of the Constitution).
    2) Such person(s) will be given sufficient time to obtain access to legal counsel, and will be entitled to private interaction with counsel without police intervention; before the commencement of police interviews with the arrested person(s).
    3) Such person(s) will be informed of the implications of not seeking counsel, and ensured that he/she understands these implications, both in the pre-trial process and in the courtroom.
    4) The taking of such person’s cautioned statement should be recorded in video or audio, in relation to more serious offences. No mention of this recommendation being applied to all cases though.

    In fact, according to section 23 of the CPC 2010, once a person is charged with an offence, the notice read to him by the police simply states that he is advised to mention, in his cautioned statement, the facts relevant to his defence as soon as possible, if not immediately, as implied by this extract:
    “… If you keep quiet now about any fact or matter in your defence and you reveal this fact or matter in your defence only at your trial, the judge may be less likely to believe you. This may have a bad effect on your case in court. Therefore it may be better for you to mention such fact or matter now..”

    Also section 261 of the CPC 2010 warns that an adverse inference might be drawn against the accused if facts are raised, relevant to his defence, which were not previously mentioned pre-trial.

    No mention of video/audio recording of cautioned statements is also present in the CPC 2010 as it seems.

    (I might be mistaken on both aspects, since this act is extremely comprehensive, however searches using the terms “audio”, “video”, “legal practitioner” (exact phrase, as stated in Art 9 of Constitution) did not produce relevant results within the CPC 2010 itself. If another kind soul does manage to retrieve such detail from this haystack, kindly submit them in reply to this.)

  21. 35 Rabbit 7 July 2011 at 03:37

    I must say Alan Shadrake “once a jolly hangman” has proved its validity and the above articles would have added another chapter to his book if Ismil were to be hanged. We have mentioned repeatedly here, main stream media and the court will go after his life if Alan were to pen similar incident again. He was warned not to write such “damaging” story to dilute the people trust of the institutions, but how can we ignore there is fire when the smoke has already reached our nose. Unfortunately, the main stream medias have been desperate to try and fan away the smoke forgetting that it makes the fire burn even more furiously. When that day comes, it might be too late to run away and all precious lives are needlessly taken away. Those ashes will probably be swept under the carept and sadly forgotten until someone like Alan dare to stand up and challenge the systems again. I wish there are more people like him.

  22. 36 bootlace 7 July 2011 at 05:25

    There’s probably many tardy and grossly mishandled cases in the cupboard. Shouldn’t surprise you. The whole system is fraying is so
    many areas from unimaginable investment losses to whatever. Now what’s with bodies and skeletons turning up everyday?

  23. 37 rglelin 7 July 2011 at 08:40

    I’m pretty sure that some male readers of this thread are more than aware of the operational limitations, considering that we have to serve NS. (Some would likely have served in the SPF)

    I’m not very certain if audio taping all interviews would be a really good idea. Operationally it might cause quite a bit of difficulty; the whole process from the recording, storage, retrieval, processing, review and subsequent submission to court all holds significant pitfalls. Take one example; the majority of interviews are for minor incidents, like lost of mobiles, ICs, etc… The storage space for just would be enormous and a nightmare to organize.

    On another note though, I fully agree that officers recording statements really need to improve their standard English. I’m not expecting them to write dissertations but some of the statements they record are really bad… But then again, as one prior post mentioned, not many well educated people are willing to join the operational arm of the Civil Service. Can we then blame them for not having a good command of English?

    • 38 Desmond 7 July 2011 at 17:01

      Storage space shouldn’t be an issue as the footage can be digital. Just get a few terabytes of harddisk and store them there. Furthermore, archiving things like this are also taking less space because of the digital age.

      For crying out loud, if the US supreme court can digitise and store all their past and current cases, I don’t see what is the problem here.

    • 39 Paul 7 July 2011 at 23:54

      I’m sorry but this is an irresponsibly lackadaisical response to a serious issue. Your contention is essentially that a measure (viz, A/V recording) to improve the reliability of a procedure (taking a police statement) can be dispensed with if it is too ‘difficult’. But if your own life depended on the reliability of a police statement, would you be so cavalier about this?

      In any case, I disagree with (i) your claim that A/V recording would pose a great operational burden, and (ii) your slippery slope argument about the use of the procedure for minor incidents.

      (i) These days even low-end consumer digital cameras (not to mention many mobile phones!) come with video recording functionality, sometimes activated at the touch of a single button. Transferring these files to a computer is not difficult either (or else how do the millions of people who use digital cameras manage?).

      Once a recording is made, it has to be organized somewhere of course, but this applies equally to material on any medium (i.e. if you have a physical, written statement, you still need a filing system). All this requires is some basic computer file housekeeping (in fact, some important metadata, e.g. date/time, are recorded automatically by the camera and stored with the video file).

      Surely it can be expected that even rank-and-file police force conscriptees are able to handle tasks that they might perform in their own personal capacities?

      In fact, one imagines that far from posing a greater difficulty, the A/V recording of oral statements would actually be *easier* than taking written statements! No need to worry if the police officer knows how to spell or construct grammatical sentences. And with the improvement in speech-to-text technology in recent times, a rough written form of the statement can be generated fairly quickly from the recording.

      If A/V recording were an insurmountable difficulty, the Courts wouldn’t be recording, but they are.

      Nay, the reluctance to embrace this measure (even though in other areas the government has been all too eager to embrace new technology, to go digital, etc.) smacks of the desire to (continue to) evade accountability.

      (ii) Deciding to introduce A/V recording of statements does not entail that *all* statements have to be recorded this way. It’s always possible to draw up guidelines for deciding on what types of cases warrant it. Yes, reporting the loss of an IC probably doesn’t, but surely a murder case (or any other contentious type of case) does.

  24. 40 MelG 7 July 2011 at 09:40

    The Criminal Procedure Code (“CPC”) was repealed and replaced with the new CPC 2010 in Jan this year. Those recommendations you refer to were not adopted.

    CPC 2010 can be viewed at

  25. 41 Anonymous 7 July 2011 at 11:28

    The decision to proceed with murder charges against the brothers was made by the Attorney-General’s Chambers. Various represntations from defence cousnel would have been made for the charges to be reduced before the trial. These were completely ignored by he prosectuion simply because, once a decision has been made and approved by the Attorney-General, no one dares to have that decision reviewed regardless of the fresh evidence submitted by the defence. The whole procees goes into auto-pilot mode and minds are closed. The prosecutors who made the decision were not those who prosecuted the case. There is much to be desired in the process in which capital cases are brought to trial and the personailites in the Attorney-General’s Chambers involved in making these crucial decisions operate on the basis that those arrested must be guilty. the decision not to reveal the sattement of the deceased’s husband was appalling. It is clear as day that once the DPPs decided on their case theory that both brothers committed the murder, their minds were shut to any other possibility. The husband’s statement was an obvious spanner in their theory and they chose to hide this from the defence and, more improtantly from the court. As officers of the court, this was a deliberate misleading of the court and should be alooked into.

  26. 42 soojenn 7 July 2011 at 12:44

    @We Can’t handle the Truth – “I once made a police report. I was amazed at the quality.”

    You cannot be more accurate in questioning the quality of a police report. I too have made one recenly, an accident report, and was amazed how much information which should be included and have not been asked. All the officers on duty are interested is, just get it over with quickly.

    Even knowing and fully informed that I am overseas frequently, that hey should make sure that they have all the information they needed, they appear to be totally incompetent and months later asking me for other information again for the incident, and expecting me to be in Singapore to clarify these!

    Most of the time these officers are not even interested to take a report if they can – in a case when I accompanied a taxi driver friend who handed in the credit card he found in his taxi to the NPP at Marine Parade. These officers just took the card without any attempt to take any statement from the driver. I had to ask them the purpose of handing in the credit card if they are not even recording this, and what happens if the credit is misued during this period?

    After telling them that if there is no police report be made, that the driver would be better off by just throwing the card away instead of taking the effort to hand it in at the station, then did they agree to making a report?

    • 43 fighting fit 7 July 2011 at 22:16

      If you find someone’s credit card and it isn’t someone you know, just shred it. That way, no one else can use it. If you call the card company, the staff will simply ask for the card number and terminate the card account until the owner calls to get a new card. Then they tell you thanks, and you can cut up the card. Go figure.

      About SPF, I once watched a crime scene investigator here “process” a burglary scene. To me, a quick check of the window grills where the thief broke in showed he pried the lock with a tool, probably a big screwdriver or crowbar. the action caused enough metal damage on the grill to produce some sharp bits sticking out. The sharp bits of metal had some lint caught on them. A close look would have told you the lint and its colour resembled the type of material used to make work gloves. Our crime investigator was dusting for prints everywhere, spending a substantial amount of time on everything he thought could have produced a fingerprint. After not finding any, he announced “No fingerprints lah,” and left. The other men in blue took statements and left.

      Inside my head, I was thinking No Shyet Sherlock, no thief wants to be caught or have a fingerprint lifted from the scene that will one day be matched to him. And the lint on the grill tells me he was wearing gloves. Better off looking for clues like whether he left something behind, search the area nearby for other discarded items or things he left behind (cigarette butts, sweet wrappers, water bottle, etc.) while laying in wait for the chance to break in.

      If they didn’t watch Mas Selamat sister’s place after he escaped, that speaks a lot about their sleuthing capability.

  27. 44 Robox 7 July 2011 at 13:46

    Isn’t it more than time that we also start demanding that Dr Chee Soon Juan, Ms Chee Siok Chin and anyone else banned by the kangaroo courts from fully participating in the political process be reinstated with their full rights?

    Have we forgotten how the 2008 convictions of the two Chee siblings were obtained because of the same injustice committed here, the summary judgement with no preceeding trial that Lee Kuan Yew and his son Lee Hsien Loong ordered the courts to proceed with?

    That’s the “obtaining of convictions at all costs” that is also the subject of this case and is similarly relevant in the case of Dr Chee and Ms Chee.

    That’s equally the non-adherence to the procedural fairness required in any fair trial that was not complied with in the case of the Chee siblings.

    And we wonder why the police have the attitudes that their political masters espouse.

    Ultimately, the reason that the Chee siblings should have their full rights reconstituted is because their convictions were obtained from mis-trials (or even non-trials) presided over in a culture of judicial incompetence.

  28. 45 Chanel 7 July 2011 at 16:59

    Poker Player
    (6 July 2011 at 18:23)

    I know which criminal case you are referring to. It was a a drug abuse case, where one of those caught was the son of a prominent judge. He was given only a slap on the wrist.

  29. 46 Shaun Liew 7 July 2011 at 20:52

    I have a friend who was in charge of a police station once, he found that his district had low crime because the ORD batch wrote crimes on papers and did not file them. He did not report the incident, and apparently got a reward for having low crime for doing nothing.

    This is Singapore. Low crime = reported crime not filed.

  30. 47 Anonymous 7 July 2011 at 21:25

    Should we/they perhaps be looking at the quality of policemen too?

    My husband and I were recently at the luggage belts at Changi AIrport and we found an iPad in one of the airport trolleys. We handed it over to a policeman, who was very earnest and probably a lovely guy, but he didn’t seem like the brightest crayon in the box.

  31. 48 C S M Aloysius 7 July 2011 at 21:42

    I agree totally with your article about the standard of Police Officers at the stations or NPP’s taking reports. They are more interested in writing what the investigator tells them at the other end and putting it down in their own words rather than taking down what the compalinant has to say. I have many experiences with this and if I was not a retired Police Officer I would have probably listerned to them but on all ocassions I insisted on putting down on what I have related to the officer taking the report and not his interpretation of the incident. I told him I was signing the report and not him and that he should note down what I have related. He did not sound very happy when he called the investigator but he had no choice. From his body language I could note that he was not pleased. Let me tell you in my time we had people who could not speak English well and some reports were written in Bahasa by these policemen but it would be precise and to the point and not their interpretation but what was related to them in either barzar malay or broken English and these reports have stood the test in High Court Trials. You can expect more of this kind of shabby work unless there is a radical change in attitude.

  32. 49 Mr Tan k m 8 July 2011 at 02:44

    The scary part about this whole affair is that what happen to Ismil could happen to YOU or your love ones. It’s time that we make a change.

    • 50 termite 9 July 2011 at 13:05

      another scary part is that the media paints the story to sound like Ismil really likes what had happened to him, as it changed his life and made him a better man.

  33. 51 Anonymous 8 July 2011 at 17:28

    Hi Alex, I felt very emotional after reading your views, you have totally expressed all the disgust I could not express well. I can relate to the case after what the police did to me – bluffed me by telling me they had “invited me” to go to the police station to take down my statement and upon arrival locked me up without allowing me to speak to a counsel – the 48hrs detention without trial. One Indian officer at the lock-up yelled into my ears and pushed me into the lock up when I refused to enter seeing that it was not the police station main floor instead it was a basement that looked exactly like a dungeon! I will be happy to share with you my story if it interests you.

  34. 52 Robox 8 July 2011 at 23:42

    Alex, alerted by a comment in another discussion of this case, I googled for information on an old case involving a Samat Dupree. But you and/or some of your readers might be interested in this paper as well.

    Click to access WrongfulConvictionsInSingapore%5B1%5D.pdf

    This also allows me the opportunity for this question: Why does there seem to be a preponderance of individuals from the ethnic minorities in such cases? It is scary for because of the fears of those instances where wrongful convictions were not discovered to be such. It is also a throwback to a previous discussion here on the disproportionate number of ethnic minorities in the prison population.

  35. 53 pokemon 9 July 2011 at 00:35

    i am not surprise at all. recently i had neighbour whose wife was suffering from mental disorder. i went over and render help and make police call at the sametime. some young punk sergeant arrival just stand around and do nothing until i told them off to call 911 for ambulance.

    they are institutionalise policeman. they are good in paper work. but shit in law enforcement activities. shame!!

  36. 55 reservist_cpl 9 July 2011 at 13:38

    The police force in Singapore is going downhill, a lot of the time many of the police officers cannot even write in proper English and can’t even understand some of the words I use (not very obscure ones, mind you). They take ages to investigate simple theft/outrage of modesty and only care about getting their low hanging-fruit – simple regulatory fines etc.

    Frankly, we should just be allowed to write our own police reports ourselves if we want to. I am disgusted every time a lousy police report is written, in bad English, no proper punctuation, sometimes lacking in details, resulting in me having to tell the police officer to change it over and over again, etc. Unfortunately, this is not an option for the Bangladeshis.

  37. 57 ET 11 July 2011 at 21:57

    The judgement looks quite devastating in it’s criticism of the prosecution and investigators.

    I noticed a curious letter today from a prosecutor to the ST which criticises their reporting.

    Compare this letter extract :

    “IN THE reporting of the case involving the Kadar brothers, The Straits Times has unfortunately continued to give the quite inaccurate impression that Ismil Kadar was facing a capital charge of murder in the Court of Appeal, and that he was acquitted of such a charge by the court.
    The High Court did convict Ismil of murder. But before the Court of Appeal, the prosecution had reviewed the position and informed the court that it was dropping the murder charge. …”

    With the judgement:

    “36     We first heard this appeal on 21 January 2011. The Prosecution’s position during that hearing was that both the Appellants were guilty of murder committed in furtherance of their common intention to commit robbery. Both Appellants, on the other hand, maintained that it was Muhammad alone who carried out both the robbery and killing. During the course of that hearing, it appeared to us that the Prosecution had not adequately considered various issues that were central to the appeal. We therefore adjourned the hearing to 15 April 2011, and directed the Prosecution to address the court on, inter alia, the following points:
    (a)     Was s 34 of the Penal Code applied correctly by the Judge?
    (b)     If there was only one assailant, what was the position of the other person, ie, the accomplice, in the light of Daniel Vijay s/o Katherasan and others v Public Prosecutor [2010] 4 SLR 1119 (“Daniel Vijay”)?
    (c)     Who was the real assailant in the Prosecution’s view? “….

    And the Court’s Decision at the End:

    “We allow Ismil’s appeal and set aside his conviction. Ismil can be said to be a petty handphone thief and a chronic drug abuser, but the Prosecution has been unable to even begin to establish that he was at the scene of the crime, let alone being a party to the robbery or the killing of the Deceased. We are also constrained to point out that these proceedings have revealed several serious lapses on the part of the investigators who had carriage of this matter (see [140], [143]–[148], [156]–[157], [175] and [182]–[183] above). We have raised several unanswered questions in this appeal (see, eg, [152], [179], [181], [189] and [190] above as well as [203] below). One, of course, hopes for one set of answers. One fears, that in reality, there might be another.”

    Clearly at the start of the Appeal, which of course was against Ismil’s conviction for murder, the Appeal was being opposed by the prosecution. If lost the Defendant would be executed. The Appeal Judges essentially forced the prosecution to re-examine their position. Ultimately the Appeal against conviction for murder was allowed, and it was concluded he was never even at the scene.

  38. 58 ET 11 July 2011 at 22:20

    It’s important to highlight these paragraphs of the judgement too, in assessing the the prosecutor’s letter to the ST:

    “Coda on the Prosecution’s conduct of these proceedings”
    “195    Before we end, we have some observations on the Prosecution’s conduct of the case that we feel we should set out in the interests of the administration of justice. To our consternation, three vital items of evidence were not provided to counsel for the Appellants by the Prosecution until very late in the proceedings.
    196    The first piece of evidence is Mr Loh’s statement of 5 September 2005. Mr Loh’s statement would have corroborated Ismil’s alibi defence (of being at home at time of the murder).[note: 97] Yet, Mr Loh’s statement was only belatedly made available to counsel for the Appellants on 4 September 2007, two years after it was obtained and 61 days into the hearing. By then the IO had already completed giving his evidence-in-chief. When the IO was cross-examined it was revealed that another statement had been recorded from Mr Loh on 12 May 2005 and that this statement was consistent with the statement of 5 September 2005.
    197    What is even more startling is that the third key piece of evidence, Mr Loh’s first statement taken on 7 May 2005, was disclosed even later – only on the penultimate day of the trial. On that day, counsel for Ismil was cross-examining SSI Lai, and, during the course of cross-examination, SSI Lai revealed that he had taken a statement from Mr Loh on 7 May 2005. It bears mention that SSI Lai was less than forthcoming initially. He insisted, at first, that Mr Loh could not talk:….

    204    Here, Ismil’s counsel was deprived of crucial information which would have considerably assisted his case. The Judge was also kept in the dark until well after he had ruled on the admissibility of Ismil’s confession. By the time Mr Loh’s statements were revealed the Judge was placed in the entirely invidious position of having to reassess the correctness of his earlier decisions on admissibility and the reliability of certain witnesses.
    205    We would end by emphasising the important role the Prosecution plays in the administration of justice. It is of paramount importance that the Prosecution discharge its duties conscientiously and ethically, and not just zealously. The ultimate determination as to innocence or guilt is to be made by the court, and it is the duty of the Prosecution to ensure that all known material evidence that is credible is fairly placed before the court in a timely manner.
    206    We do not think that the prosecutors who had carriage of this matter in the High Court properly assessed their ethical obligations to the Court (even assuming they were entitled rely on the decision in Selvarajan James). They made a deliberate decision not to disclose Mr Loh’s statement dated 5 September 2005 to the court until late in the proceedings − and even then, the remaining statements had to be teased out through an achingly drawn-out process. This failure to make timely disclosure was disappointing.”

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