Criminal record of driver who filmed PM Lee’s son revealed in public’s interest: Shanmugam
He directed the police to release the suspect's criminal antecedents without revealing his name.
The criminal record of the driver who filmed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s son, Li Yipeng, was revealed by the police, because it was in the interest of the public to know the context of the matter.
This was the written reply given by Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam, in response to a question by Workers’ Party MP Sylvia Lim in Parliament on April 1, on the guidelines and impact of releasing a suspect’s prior criminal history and prejudicial information.
Public may misunderstand the Police’s actions
In explaining why the suspect’s records were revealed, Shanmugam stated that if the police had not set out their security concerns, the public may not grasp why the Police were investigating the matter, and may even misunderstand the Police’s actions.
As such, it was in the public interest for the police to give a fuller explanation and background why they were investigating the matter, so as to maintain public confidence in the police.
Shanmugam had directed the police to state the suspect’s antecedents without revealing his name
Shanmugam further elaborated that he had also directed the police to reveal the man’s criminal antecedents without revealing his name.
In a statement, the police had stated that the suspect’s previous run-ins with the law consisted of:
- Taking a vehicle without the owner’s consent under the Road Traffic Act in 2014,
- A consideration of offence for driving without valid insurance under the Act during sentencing in 2014,
- A warning for a theft-in-dwelling case,
- The lodging of a police report against him for criminal intimidation.
Li was placed in a distressing position by the suspect
Shanmugam further stated that Li had been placed in a distressing position by the suspect’s actions.
He noted that in the video of the incident, the suspect could be heard repeatedly asking Li to confirm his identity, residential address and security arrangements.
Additionally, the situation had been compounded by the fact that Li also had Asperger’s syndrome, a
mild form of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) characterised by significant difficulties in social interaction and in non-verbal communication.
On top of that, Li’s albinism also resulted in his having very poor eyesight.
“Leaving aside Mr Li’s background, it is very troubling when an individual picks up any vulnerable person, whether adult or child, and puts that person in such a situation…The man put Mr Li in an uncomfortable situation, apparently exploited the situation, filmed it,
and then circulated it.”
Release of information needs to take into account social media’s proliferation
On the the issue of guidelines over the release of information, Shanmugam stated that existing legal requirements guided police decisions on what information to disclose.
He added that the proliferation of social media meant that public agencies would have to release information earlier than used to from time to time.
What’s more, in the event that the police releases information earlier, they will do so while being careful not to prejudice any investigations or legal proceedings that may follow.
“It may not always be possible in all cases to wait for a trial to commence or be concluded, a process which may take weeks or months, before releasing relevant facts to the public.”
Here’s what happened:
Top image collage from Gov.sg Youtube and here.