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WP MP He Ting Ru voices concern over MHCTA amendment, citing wrongful arrest case

WP MP He Ting Ru expressed concern about MHCTA amendments perpetuating stigma against those with mental health conditions. She also sought clarification on recourse for those wrongly detained or subjected to excessive force.



Ms He Ting Ru, Workers’ Party Member of Parliament for Sengkang GRC, expressed concern regarding the proposed amendment to the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) Act (MHCTA), which grants the police authority to apprehend individuals perceived as posing a danger to themselves or others.

During her participation in the debate for the Law Enforcement and Other Matters Bill on Tuesday (2 April), Ms He raised apprehensions about the potential consequences of reducing the threshold from a condition of reasonably imminent risk to one of reasonable likelihood under the MHCTA.

“I am worried that the amendments to the MHCTA unnecessarily perpetuate stigma against persons living with mental health conditions.”

Furthermore, she sought clarification on the recourse available to those who believe they have been wrongly detained or subjected to excessive force or trauma.

In response to Ms He’s concerns, Ms Josephine Teo, the Second Minister for Home Affairs (MHA), reassured that the Police do not intend to exacerbate the challenges faced by individuals with mental health conditions or their families.

She emphasized that both MHA and the Police strongly oppose any misuse of authority by officers and affirmed that appropriate action will be taken in cases of misconduct.

The amendment allows Police to apprehend individuals with mental health conditions for medical treatment

One key amendment to MHCTA empowers the police to apprehend individuals with mental health conditions deemed hazardous to themselves or others and facilitate their transfer for medical treatment.

Under this Act, rather than arresting such individuals, the police can now apprehend them to seek medical assistance, avoiding incarceration.

During her parliamentary address introducing the bill, Josephine Teo highlighted that the High Court had differentiated between apprehensions and arrests under the Criminal Procedure Code.

As a result, police officers lacked certain essential powers typically associated with arrests, notably the authority for search and seizure to ensure the absence of dangerous items.

“In particular, the High Court determined that the police do not have powers of search and seizure to ensure that the person is not hiding dangerous weapons or items.”

This posed a challenge, as police were expected to transfer individuals to medical facilities while ensuring they were not concealing any weapons, said Mrs Teo.

To address this issue, the bill also amends the Police Force Act to explicitly grant relevant powers, including search and seizure capabilities, to the police during apprehensions under the MHCTA or other related Acts.

“This does not mean that the person will be needlessly roughed up. On the contrary, having assessed that the person may be suffering from mental health conditions, police officers are minded to carry out search and seizure with due care and respect,” noted Mrs Teo.

High Court judgment on Mah Kiat Seng’s case in January 2023

Ms He in her speech highlighted the precedent set by the High Court judgment in January 2023, citing the case of Mah Kiat Seng who was wrongly detained for less than a day in 2017.

In that case, the court held that the use of the word “danger” implies a degree of imminence, meaning that without police intervention, such behaviour is likely to occur within a short time frame, typically a matter of hours rather than days.

The court clarified that there must be a reasonably imminent risk of physical harm to the person apprehended or others.

She then discussed the new amendment proposed in the Bill, which empowers police and special police officers to apprehend a person if they believe that person may endanger their own or another person’s life or personal safety.

Additionally, a new sub-clause 2(aa) is introduced, stating that it is sufficient for the danger to life or personal safety to be reasonably likely to occur, without the need for it to be imminent, and actual harm is not required.

While acknowledging the Minister for Home Affairs’ previous statement in the House that laws should not inadvertently result in defensive policing, Ms He stressed the importance of ensuring that amendments reducing the threshold to apprehend a person are subject to safeguards.

“With the proposed amendments, I would like to seek clarification from the minister, of my understanding that these changes are in response to the high Court’s ruling in Mah’s case.”

She expressed concern about the lowering of the threshold from a “reasonably imminent risk” to a “reasonable likelihood” of danger to life or personal safety, particularly in its application to individuals with mental health conditions.

She asked if the government has considered its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in proposing these amendments and how they align with Singapore’s CRPD commitments.

Ms He also inquired whether individuals suspected to be suffering from mental health crises and falling under the new threshold would be subject to background checks for a history of mental disorder

In addition, She asked about safeguards, guidelines, training, and support provided to police officers in applying the new threshold, particularly concerning situations involving individuals with mental illness and conditions.

“After all we are drawing a delicate balance between Public Safety on the one hand, and the proper treatment and approach to those living with mental illness and conditions.”

She referenced an article by Chan Li Shan, who shared personal experiences of being arrested during a psychotic episode in an article published on Jom, expressing concerns about the potential trauma inflicted on individuals with mental illness during arrest procedures.

Ms He sought clarification on redress for alleged erroneous detention and excessive force

Ms He then transitioned to the issue of recourse for individuals who believe they were erroneously detained or subjected to excessive force or trauma.

Again she referring to the High Court ruling in Mah’s case in January 2023, where discrepancies were found between police statements, evidence, and medical reports.

“The Mah case was one where the officer was found to have made certain statements which were later withdrawn after being contradicted by BWC footage, and the judge also expressed concerns about the discrepancies between the medical report produced by the examining doctor and the evidence later submitted. ”

“The safeguards and guidelines I asked about are thus extremely important if an occasion arises where the conduct of the arrest and subsequent procedures are problematic, ” Ms He stressed, reiterating concern that the amendment might perpetuate stigma against persons living with mental health conditions.

MHA 2nd Minister assured govt’s effort to destigmatize mental health conditions

In response, MHA Second Minister Josephine Teo reiterated the government’s commitment to advancing mental health and recognized individuals with mental health conditions as part of society, emphasizing efforts to destigmatize mental health conditions and ensure individuals do not hesitate to seek help.

She clarified that the police do not seek to burden individuals with mental health conditions or their families, emphasizing that the police’s involvement is only when called to prevent harm from happening.

She addressed misconceptions about the use of Section 7 of the MHCTA for mental health management, stating that apprehension under the MHCTA is not a criminal offence and individuals are brought to medical practitioners for assessment, not placed in lock-ups.

Ms Teo also explained the role of the police in assessing whether the threat of physical harm is attributable to a mental disorder and highlighted the consultation with mental health professionals and updates in police training to identify and respond to mental health conditions.

On Ms He’s question on redress for alleged erroneous detention and excessive force, Ms Teo said, “Let me state categorically that MHA and the Police do not condone officers abusing their powers or acting inappropriately. ”

“Police ground response force officers don body-worn cameras which ensure accountability and transparency. Their actions can be audited very easily because it’s recorded.”

If the officers have breached the law and committed criminal offences, the Police will refer the matter to the AGC for criminal prosecution.  If the officers are guilty of misconduct but it is not a criminal offence, the Police will conduct internal investigations and take disciplinary action as necessary.

In serious cases, the officers are dismissed, she added.
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All these fucking bills and laws to arrest arrest arrest and detain. What this fucking PAP scared of their own shadows also izit?

So many siao lang locals that now, the PAP GOT TO ENACT LAWS TO PROTECT THEMSELVES AND THEIR OWN KIND from their own local siao citizens!
Guess these siao lang and the PAP do make ….good buddies!😆😆😆😆