Appropriate Adult Schemes in Singapore
There are two types of Appropriate Adult Schemes in Singapore:
- Appropriate Adult Scheme for suspects with intellectual disabilities
- Appropriate Adult Scheme for young suspects under 16 years old
Who is this for?
As outlined above, there are currently two schemes. One of the schemes are intended for suspects with intellectual disabilities – such as people who suffer from autism spectrum disorders. People who suffer from intellectual disabilities typically possess a card which indicates it and that can be shown to the police.
Alternatively, the authorities will be able to identify these suspects by administering a test which determines if the apprehended suspect is likely to suffer from any intellectual disabilities. The other scheme is intended for young suspects – suspects under 16 years old.
Why is there a need for these schemes?
Suspects with intellectual disabilities often have language or communication impairments which may hinder their ability to understand the questions asked by the authorities and restrict them from expressing their thoughts accurately. Young suspects on the other hand, may be fearful of authorities and as a result be more vulnerable to succumb to pressure throughout the whole process.
Given the reasons above, these suspects may end up providing inaccurate information to the authorities, or incriminate themselves mistakenly.
What are the objectives of these schemes?
Facilitate Communication: Both of these schemes, albeit targeting different groups of people, share one common goal – that is to facilitate communication between the suspects and the authorities. This is achieved by having a trained neutral party – known as the Appropriate Adult, to accompany the suspects during investigation interviews.
These Appropriate Adults are trained to promote more effective communication by clarifying the questions posed by authorities which may be challenging for the suspects to understand. Similarly, when the answer is given by the suspects to the authorities, the Appropriate Adults can assist in ensuring that the authorities understand what the suspects are expressing. However, throughout this whole process, the Appropriate Adults must maintain their neutral stance and not advance their own personal opinion or obstruct the course of justice in any way.
Emotional Support: That aside, the Appropriate Adults may also provide emotional support towards these suspects during this potentially stressful process. This is especially important during the interview stage where the authorities are tasked to interrogate the suspect, the Appropriate Adults trained to look out for signs of distress in these suspects and lessen the interrogative pressure on them.
One of the aims of these emotional assistance is to prevent the suspects from mishandling the stress and harming themselves as a result. Additionally, it is to safeguard the suspects from being pressured to falsely confess to crimes or acts that they did not commit.
There are several practical difficulties that require clarification and solutions. For example, whether these Appropriate Adults must be fully neutral or whether it would be better if these Appropriate Adults are people the suspects are more familiar with, such as teachers or caregivers. In addition, there also needs to be more clarification on when these Appropriate Adults should step in, whether they should be present from the time of apprehension or only during the interview process.
However, these schemes are a net positive towards society as a whole. These schemes not only benefit the suspects that the Appropriate Adults are assisting, they also benefit the authorities in retrieving accurate information. By having a neutral party on scene, there will also be more transparency in the whole interrogation process. In the future, these schemes can be forecasted to be extended towards more vulnerable groups, such as the elderly or other marginalised members of society.