73-year-old had to withstand harsh ordeal after being arrested for town council offence of wrongful placement of potted plants outside her flat

2006

The 73-year-old woman who was allegedly treated harshly by the authorities after being arrested for town council related offence, has been identified as one Madam Savarimuthu.

The woman’s daughter, Gertrude Simon, had complained about the harsh treatment through a letter to the Straits Times forum page, and said that her mother was arrested when she went to make a police report at the Ang Mo Kio South Neighbourhood Police Centre about a lost pawn shop ticket.

The woman had a warrant of arrest issued against her on a town council related matter. The warrant of arrest was issued in 2015 for “the wrongful placement of potted plants outside her flat, which amounted to an offence involving a $400 fine.”

The police said in their statement that Madam Savarimuthu declined to call a bailor each time she was asked throughout her ordeal.

Ms Simon said that her mother forgot the contact details of all her relatives because of the stress of being arrested and that the family members only got to know about her predicament after officers from the Changi Women’s Prison (CWP) contacted them. The family however was not allowed to visit the woman throughout the period she was detained.

Ms Simon also took issue that her mother was treated harshly when the police moved her between the police station, CWP and the court.

“…when my mother was moved between the police station, CWP and the court, she was handcuffed and had leg restraints on. It is appalling that a weak old woman was subjected to such harsh treatment. Law enforcement officers must be empowered to exercise flexibility to handle such cases with empathy and more humane considerations.”

The police statement said that “throughout her time with the police, (the elderly woman) was not restrained.”

The authorities however confirmed that the elderly woman was restrained at her hands and legs when she was being transferred to prison as it was part of “SPS’ standard operating procedures, which include preventing persons in custody from harming themselves.”

The police and SPS added that they have a duty to enforce the law and to ensure that the rule of law is respected.

“At the same time, we are committed to ensuring the well-being and safety of persons in our custody,” it added.

Ms Simon who said that her mother remains traumatised by the incident asked the police and relevant government agencies to relook procedures for arresting elderly citizens. She suggested that when “elderly suspects are detained, factors like their age, health and mental state, along with the seriousness of the offence, need to be considered.”

“Their next-of-kin must be contacted; if necessary, the elderly person should be taken home to retrieve phone records,” she said. And added: “This would make it easier to make bail arrangements and avoid the need for him to be taken to prison.”

She ended her letter by saying, “I hope our pioneer generation members will not be subjected to such an ordeal in future.”