Escapes and Escapades

Jail breaks are getting common, common as Chee Soon Juan and his ilk getting jailed, fined and criticised, and common as SAF soldiers dying while on seemingly routine physical training. In the latest escapade by 2 accused at the subordinate courts, it was a mixture of brute force, guile and luck on the side of the accused, and zero vigilance by the guards at the Courts.

This time it is the Law Ministry bearing the brunt of the responsibility and not the Home Affairs Ministry, but who cares? As long as there is an escape attempt by prisoners because procedures were not followed, then the government as a whole should be blamed, especially as escape cases are fresh on people’s minds now. Mas Selamat is still on the run and it is unlikely that he would ever be captured, particularly if he has left Singapore already. That is the milestone example of incompetence at the ground level and how Murphy’s Law would take its course when the opportunity presents itself.

Human error was the cause of the recent failed escape. A guard opened the door without checking and the 2 accused made a vain attempt at freedom. SOPs are useless if the government does not have trained professionals who take pride in their jobs to make sure the systems work. From the Mas Selamat and other escapes, it goes to show that our government has unmotivated, untrained staff to do important jobs, however small these jobs seem.

While escape attempts are not unexpected as the desperate criminal has little to lose, this escape attempt because of “human error” is atrocius in the wake of the Mas Selamat fiasco. The government better train and motivate its civil servants more. We don’t want a massive jail break at Changi before real reform, not merely talk of reform, at detention facilities happen.

The only small consolation from this drama is that the 2 were caught within minutes. So at least there are a handful of motivated and trained civil servants still.

Law minister says attempted court escape result of human error
By Asha Popatlal, Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 14 June 2008 1710 hrs

SINGAPORE: The recent attempted escape by two accused persons – Jamaluddin Salam and Salman Abu Samah – from the Subordinate Courts should not have happened, said Law Minister and Second Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam.

It was the result of human error and non-adherence to established procedures.

In February, security lapses at the Whitley Road Detention Centre allowed alleged terrorist Mas Selamat Kastari to escape. Since then, security systems at all lock-ups have been audited.

In March and April, the lock-up system and the security system at the Subordinate Courts underwent a thorough review and some changes were made.

“My personal view and the view of people who have looked at it is that it’s sound – the policies in place are sound and the system is sound,” Mr Shanmugam said.

But he also made it clear that if people do not follow procedures, lapses will occur.

“There are no ifs, there are no buts. It was an error, it was a mistake. I don’t think we can qualify that. There is no running away from that. It was wrong. It should not have happened. But having happened, you got to sit back and ask why,” Mr Shanmugam said.

The authorities are not the only ones asking ‘why’; Singaporeans also want to know why these lapses are occurring in the police force.

Recognising the legitimacy of such questions, Mr Shanmugam said two things will be done – first, re-look the current system to minimise the level of human errors, and second, have a strategic re-look at the flow of accused persons who are brought to court. As many as 50,000 of them pass through the Subordinate Courts system every year.

He said: “The Supreme Court has piloted a programme where many of the pre-trial conferences where the accused are involved with issues of bail… don’t even have to be brought into court.

“If the pilot programme is successful, it’s possible to look at that being extended and there are alternate methods which will focus on reducing the traffic of accused into the Subordinate Courts.”

Mr Shanmugam said his Ministry will work with the Subordinate Courts on this.

“At the same time, thousands of people use the Subordinate Courts every day. We have to strike a balance between security and making sure that the place doesn’t become so tight that civilians who are using it, can’t use it anymore.”

The minister added that other actions may also be taken when investigations into the attempted break-out are completed.


2 responses

  1. Pingback: The Singapore Daily » Blog Archive » Daily SG: 16 Jun 2008

  2. Pingback: The Singapore Daily » Blog Archive » Weekly Roundup: Week 25

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