Family of late 14-year-old Benjamin Lim to raise S$200k for lawsuit against S’pore govt

It is part of an effort to 'make sure that Benjamin's death was not in vain', and to better protect other children.

By Jeanette Tan | October 13, 2017

The family of 14-year-old Benjamin Lim, who was in August last year ruled to have committed suicide in a case that raised questions over how minors are questioned by police, is raising funds for a lawsuit against what are reportedly two government bodies.

Lim’s body was found at the foot of his block in Yishun on January 26, 2016, after returning home from assisting in police investigation into a case of molest, where he admitted to deliberately touching an 11-year-old girl in a lift.

He was summoned to the principal’s office that day 10am, at North View Secondary School, which he attended.

He was subsequently placed under arrest and released on bail to his mother by 2.50pm the same day.

He fell to his death roughly an hour or so later, following a call his mother received from the school’s counsellor informing her that her son would not be allowed to attend a school camp.

A coroner’s inquiry into Lim’s death in Aug. 2016 had concluded that there were no evidence of anything that was not in accordance with police or school processes.

About one and a half years on, Lim’s family confirmed to Mothership on Thursday that they plan to take legal action to seek justice for his death.

“Every birthday, every CNY, every family gathering we grieve his absence”

Responding to questions from Mothership, Lim’s family shared that they are acting now with the awareness that what happened to the teenager could well happen to any other boy or family.

“Our son Benjamin was 14 years old when he died, today he would be 16. Every birthday, every CNY, every family gathering we grieve his absence which is accompanied by a prescient fact that this could happen again today to another set of parents; another family could feel the tragic loss of their child due to our authorities choosing not to learn from Benjamin’s death, and use the lessons learned to progress their systems and protect vulnerable children of Singapore.”

They added that they hope to “make sure that other Singaporean children are better protected” than Lim was, and also that his death would not be in vain.

They also said they are “not a wealthy family”, but have already spent “thousands” on the legal advice needed to “get us to this stage”, where they have said they are “now ready with the legal and community support” to continue their efforts.

They did not respond to questions from Mothership about what exactly they are suing the authorities for, or what outcome — be it compensation in cash or kind or a change in policy, for instance — they are seeking in taking legal action.

Lim’s family did, however, highlight that they were advised by their lawyers that fees for their planned legal case are likely to run in excess of S$200,000:

“Litigation in Singapore is very expensive but has the potential to bring about real change for our future generations.”

Why sue the authorities?

Lim’s parents told Mothership they felt that measures taken by the government, which include a scheme requiring minors under criminal investigation to be accompanied by an appropriate adult enacted in April this year, have thus far been inadequate:

“We feel as parents that the circumstances of the death of our son were not adequately handled or settled by the authorities involved. The outcome we received in no way protects the children of Singapore and we hope that legal action can create the changes needed to protect all our young people in the future.”

Based on an initial report by The Online Citizen, whose editor Terry Xu started a Give.Asia fundraising campaign on Thursday targeting the hefty S$200,000 sum, the parties the family is suing are the Ministry of Education and the Singapore Police Force.

Oddly enough, however, the page was taken down by Give.Asia’s administrators, according to Xu, “with no reasons given” for their actions.

Xu and the family are now hoping to raise their funds via direct bank transfers from the public.

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Top photo: Screenshot of Give.Asia donation page

About Jeanette Tan

Jeanette takes pride in her ability to sing the complete lyrics to Hakuna Matata and a host of other Disney songs. She holds out hope to someday be talent-spotted to do voice-overs for documentaries, lifts and automated telephone answering systems.

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