Singaporean Man Gets Compensated RM60K In Damages After He Was Wrongly Imprisoned

He was jailed after a woman falsely reported him to the police, claiming that he touched her son's head on 7 July 2017.

Cover image via Scientific American & Try Sutisno Foo/CNA

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A man in Singapore has been compensated with SGD20,000 (RM64,296) in damages after he was wrongly imprisoned in 2017

Mah Kiat Seng was apprehended and imprisoned after a woman called the police claiming that he touched her son's head on 7 July 2017, CNA reported.

He then sued the Attorney-General (AG) representing the Singapore Police Force, along with two other police officers.

One of the police officers who took the man into custody was Staff Sergeant Mohamed Rosli Mohamed while the other officer who interacted with him at a police lock-up was Staff Sergeant Tan Thiam Chin Lawrence.

However, Seng wasn't able to seek legal recourse against the two police officers who allegedly abused their authority against him.

Supreme Court from across the Singapore River

Image via Try Sutrisno/CNA

When Rosli arrested Seng, the police concluded that he was mentally unstable and could have endangered others

The police apprehended Seng under the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) Act and handcuffed him before referring him to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) for treatment.

Upon conducting a mental well-being observation on Seng, the doctors concluded that he was mentally stable enough to be discharged from IMH around 7pm the same day.

During his detention at IMH, Seng revealed that the police officers had prevented IMH staff from discharging him and also negligently damaged his bag and phone, which the police have denied.

Rosli claimed that he was told by the woman who made the report that he didn't look mentally stable

According to the policeman, Seng allegedly appeared fidgety, defensive, and incoherent when Rosli confronted him.

Seng's behaviour was recorded by a bodyworn camera on Rosli's person.

He was also reported to be mumbling to himself, according to an affidavit issued back in September 2017. However, Rosli failed to mention this detail during a radio call to his superiors.

"Rosli's transcribed description given to his superiors of Seng's behaviour is brief to the point of inarticulacy, saying only 'he a bit ... got ... a bit ... don't know la ... this guy'," said High Court Justice Philip Jeyaretnam.

"It was the element of mumbling to himself that indicated to persons untrained in psychiatric disorder that Seng might be suffering from a mental disorder."

Image for illustration purposes only.

Image via Law Guide In Singapore

Additional claims that Rosli made against Seng include spitting into a plastic bag and describing himself as "OCD" (obsessive-compulsive disorder).

Seng denied the sergeant's claims.

Seng had sought damages for a total of SGD4,620.95 (RM15,000). Meanwhile, the AG had suggested the general damages to be not more than SGD15,000 (RM48,694) for the false imprisonment claim.

The judge then concluded Seng's general damages would amount to SGD20,000 (RM64,926).

Justice Jeyaretnam awarded a higher amount than what the AG had proposed, considering Seng was handcuffed and kept in a police cell rather than being transferred directly to IMH.

According to the judge, if Seng had been sent directly to IMH, it would have been less stressful for him.

Moreover, the damages included the minor abrasions sustained by Seng on his wrists when he was apprehended and handcuffed by Rosli.

Compensation was also issued to Seng when his privacy was invaded when Rosli went through his personal belongings.

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