Forged IO's statements had no material impact on 8 Coroner's Inquiries: Shanmugam

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Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam. (SCREENSHOT: Ministry of Communications and Information/YouTube)
Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam. (SCREENSHOT: Ministry of Communications and Information/YouTube)

SINGAPORE — Following a review, the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) is satisfied that forged statements by an investigation officer (IO) had no material impact on the outcome of eight Coroner’s Inquiries (CI), said Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam.

In a written reply to parliamentary queries, the minister noted that in these cases, there was other direct and relevant evidence such as CCTV footage, witness statements and forensic reports that supported the eventual outcomes. 

"The forged statements were not central to the matters," said Shanmugam on Sunday (31 October), who added that the Coroner has already completed his hearings for seven of the eight re-opened cases, and re-confirmed the findings that the deaths in these cases were caused by unfortunate traffic misadventures. 

The remaining case has been adjourned pending further investigations into issues that did not arise from the forged statements.

Last month, the Coroner re-opened eight CIs that were earlier concluded, as a result of allegations that the IO who handled the cases had forged statements from relevant witnesses. In closing the seven cases, Coroner Marvin Bay said that IO Kenny Cheong Chyuan Lih had been "grossly wrong" in his duties

In light of this, Pillai asked what systemic steps the police will take to ensure that there is no over-dependence on a single officer’s representation that material witnesses have been interviewed by the same officer. Mountbatten MP Lim Biow Chuan also asked about the safeguards in place to prevent forgery of statements by IOs.

Safeguards against misconduct

Shanmugam noted that statements recorded by an IO must be reviewed by a supervisor as part of the overall assessment of investigations. IOs must also keep records of investigative steps such as the recording of statements in their field book, while supervisors will perform regular checks of the field book to ensure that investigations are properly carried out. 

The AGC also acts as an additional layer of checks to ensure that all relevant evidence has been obtained, and that any evidence relied upon is credible and reliable. 

Technological solutions is also being implemented to reduce errors and further safeguard the process. For example, some statements can already be signed electronically in real-time by the interviewee.  

"These are generally effective, but as Members will understand, sometimes an errant officer may try and bypass these safeguards," said Shanmugam, adding that the nature of the court process and the examination of evidence means that such errant behaviour is unlikely to affect a matter in a substantive way.

Furthermore, in every investigation, all relevant evidence, including forensic evidence and CCTV footage is likely to be followed through. AGC will review the evidence, documents, and interview relevant witnesses. Accused persons, victims and witnesses are generally also required to testify during a trial. 

"All such evidence will be considered holistically by the Court," said the minister, adding that while individual acts of misconduct may happen from time to time, firm and swift action must be taken whenever such misconduct is uncovered.

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