What to Do If Your Loved One is Under Police Investigation
When someone becomes the subject of a criminal investigation in Singapore, that is invariably a uniquely stressful experience not only for them, but for anyone who is close to them and cares about them.
Feelings of frustration, anger and helplessness are common. Hence, what can you do to best support your loved one if this happens to them?
This article shares 7 steps that you can take if your loved one is under police investigations:
1. Understand the Criminal Investigation Process
First, it’s important to understand how a criminal investigation (also known as a police investigation) usually proceeds in Singapore. The “investigation” refers to the period including the arrest and interrogation of the suspect, and the questioning of other witnesses by the police, but before any criminal charges are brought against the suspect.
This means that the suspect is merely being suspected of having committed a crime at this stage, but not yet accused of doing so. It is only when the suspect is brought to court and charged that they are formally accused of a crime. Accordingly, if your loved one has been given a charge sheet to keep, this means they are no longer merely suspects. Instead, they have now been accused of a crime and will have to defend themselves in court or plead guilty to the crime.
Sometimes an investigation can take a day and primarily involves interrogation of the suspect and questioning of a complainant (i.e. the person who made a police complaint). For more serious or complex cases, investigations can take months. During investigations, the suspect’s passport is often impounded by the police and they are not allowed to travel.
Though investigations may end without any charges being brought or with a mere warning being administered to the suspect, they often end with the suspect being charged with a criminal offence.
For more information, refer to our article on police investigations in Singapore.
2. Seek Legal Advice and Engage a Criminal Lawyer on Behalf of Your Loved One
Once a suspect is actually charged in court, it is highly advisable to engage a criminal defence lawyer. That said, even if the suspect is only being investigated at this time, it is generally advisable to seek legal advice at the earliest possible stage. This will allow you and your loved one to:
- Better understand the investigation process and the possible outcomes you can expect; and
- Prepare you, from a psychological and practical perspective, for the next steps you will need to take.
In some cases, a criminal lawyer may recommend engaging him/her to write representations to the prosecution to explain the circumstances of the incident resulting in the investigation and to urge the prosecution to end the investigation. Such representations, if sent at the right time and carefully formulated, can, in the right cases, sometimes result in the investigation being ended without charges being brought against the suspect.
Sometimes, a suspect, when placed in the stressful position of being investigated, may find themselves unable to take charge of their case and do what is necessary to advance their best interests. If this sounds like your loved one, you can help them by reaching out to criminal lawyers, with your loved one’s consent, and helping them to engage one. This may be the most important practical support you can provide to your loved one at this time.
3. Ensure that Your Loved One Rewrites and Remembers Their Police Statements
Other steps you can take to help your loved one is to have them write out whatever they said to police officers, or whatever was written in any statements they signed at the police station. These statements are crucial evidence that will be used against your loved one, and their lawyer will often not be able to get a copy of them until it is too late.
If the suspect later contradicts him/herself in another statement or in court, this can be used to allege that he/she is a liar whose words should not be believed. That’s why it is so important for your loved one to write out as much of those statements as they can remember as soon as they come back from the police station.
4. Stand Bail For Your Loved One If You Can
If your loved one is ultimately charged with an offence, they may be offered bail, which allows them to avoid being remanded in prison pending court proceedings. If so, they may need you to stand bail for them. Therefore, you should prepare for the possibility.
If you are a Singaporean citizen or permanent resident, you can act as a bailor. You might need bank statements to show that you have a certain amount of funds if bail is set above a certain amount. If you are not a Singaporean citizen or permanent resident, then you or your loved one should approach in confidence a Singaporean citizen or permanent resident whom you trust to see if they would be prepared to stand bail if necessary.
Being a bailor involves taking on a serious liability. A bailor’s role is to ensure that the suspect or accused complies with all conditions of bail, such as their attendance at every court hearing. If the suspect or accused breaches the bail conditions, the bailor may have to forfeit his/her bail. Therefore, this is not a responsibility that many people are prepared to bear.
If you have the ability to do this for your loved one, this may be one of the most crucial support you can provide for them. The alternative is them being remanded in prison pending their conviction or acquittal.
5. Discuss the Impact of Your Loved One’s Sentencing on Both Your Futures and Plan Accordingly
If your lawyer advises you that your loved one will likely be sentenced to a lengthy imprisonment term, consider the impact this will have on your life and plan accordingly.
If you and your loved one are partners and/or have children, you may need to substantially adjust your lifestyle to cope with the adverse impact of your partner’s sentence, and any subsequent criminal record, on your:
- Joint earning capacity and overall financial health, as well as on your
- Current childcare arrangements, if applicable.
This is because ex-offenders typically struggle to build lucrative careers upon release and are not usually viewed as attractive candidates for highly-paid employment.
6. Consider the Potential Impacts on Your and Your Loved Ones’ Well-Being and Seek Counselling If Needed
A criminal investigation and any subsequent prosecution can take a very long time, sometimes over a year. You should prepare yourself and your loved one for the inevitable emotional highs and lows that will come your way over the course of that process. Find a lawyer who is communicative, competent, sympathetic and responsive to your questions so that you feel supported throughout the process.
Consider also the emotional well-being and mental health of your loved one, yourself and the other people close to your loved one, including his/her children, if any. Ensure that all of you seek professional counselling to help you cope if the emotional strain of the process is too much.
However, bear in mind that anything your loved one tells a counsellor, therapist or psychologist is not legally privileged, unlike the relationship between a lawyer and a client. The prosecution could subpoena the counsellor and require them to testify against your loved one in court, or to give a statement to the police telling them what he/she knows of the facts of the case.
Accordingly, it would be wise for your loved one to avoid discussing with the counsellor the incident that led to the investigation, and focus instead on the investigation’s emotional impact on them.
7. Stay by Your Loved One’s Side and Help Them Prepare Attire for Court Hearings
If your loved one is charged with an offence, speak to your lawyer about what your loved one should wear to court.
Also discuss what perception, if any, your presence at any court hearings might create. Sometimes, the availability of family support and/or supervision can be a relevant sentencing consideration or can just help to create a positive perception of the accused as a valued member of a family.
If you are advised that your presence would be helpful or of no consequence, attend any court hearings that you can and ask for your lawyer’s advice on what you should wear. Take your loved one shopping for appropriate court attire if necessary.
While some of these steps may seem insignificant or unimportant, being able to do something concrete to support your loved one, no matter how small, will help combat any feelings of despair or helplessness you experience.
The process of a criminal investigation in Singapore and any subsequent prosecution can be lengthy, emotionally taxing and have significant and long-term negative effects on the life of your loved one, and therefore on yours. It is important that you provide the emotional support that your loved one will need throughout that process, as well as seek the same support for yourself if you need it.
Also, as should be clear by now, the support of a sympathetic, professional and competent criminal lawyer is indispensable at every stage of the process. If your loved one appears unable to arrange for the engagement of a lawyer, step in to help.
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