Ms Sylvia Lim: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) what regulations or guidelines are in place to ensure that law enforcement agencies and the media do not release or publish prejudicial information about suspects that can undermine due process in ongoing criminal investigations and proceedings; (b) whether the prior criminal history and out-of-court records of the suspect who allegedly uploaded videos of the Prime Minister's son in March 2019 have been divulged to the media by the police or other public agency or official and, if so, why.
- Ms Lim’s questions refer to the incident where Mr Li Yipeng was taken for a ride on 15 March 2019.
- The man was driving a private, rented car. The car was not licensed for ride-sharing. 5 months earlier, in Nov 2018, Grab had terminated the man’s contract for driving a private hire car without proper decals and also for suspected touting.
- Since the man did not have a car licensed to pick up passengers, he could not, (amongst other things), pick up passengers from the roadside.
- The man recognised Mr Li as the Prime Minister’s son. He picked up Mr Li who was waiting for a hail taxi. Mr Li is a vulnerable person. It is public knowledge that Mr Li has Asperger’s syndrome, a mild form of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction and in non-verbal communication. This is compounded by Mr Li’s albinism, which results in his having very poor eyesight.
- The driver then filmed his interactions with Mr Li using his handphone, apparently while driving, and subsequently circulated the videos. In the confined setting of his car, the man can be heard (in a video), repeatedly asking Mr Li to confirm his identity, residential address and security arrangements. Leaving aside Mr Li’s background, it is very troubling when an individual picks up any vulnerable person, whether adult or child, and puts that person in such a situation. I am sure the Member, like most people, will be deeply concerned by what happened. The man put Mr Li in an uncomfortable situation, apparently exploited the situation, filmed it, and then circulated it.
- The videos came to the Police’s attention. The man’s conduct in the videos showed, prima facie, infractions of the law.
- Police began investigations immediately. In addition to the infractions, the Police were concerned from the security perspective as well, for a number of reasons. The man made repeated references to Rochalie Drive, and pressed Mr Li on the security arrangements at PM’s home. The questions he asked showed that he already knew Mr Li’s identity.
- The man had picked up Mr Li without possessing a street hailing licence, and he had criminal antecedents:
- A conviction in 2014 for taking a vehicle without owner’s consent under the Road Traffic Act;
- With the offence of Driving a Motor Vehicle without Insurance in respect to Third-Party Risks under the Motor Vehicles (Third-Party Risks and Compensation) Act taken into consideration;
- A warning for theft in dwelling in 2002; and,
- A report made against him for criminal intimidation in 2014.
- When asked by the media, the Police confirmed these investigations. The Minister for Home Affairs directed the Police to state the man’s antecedents, without disclosing his name.
- It was in the public interest for the Police to give a fuller explanation and background why they were investigating the matter. If the Police did not set out their security concerns, the public may not grasp why the Police were investigating the matter, and may even misunderstand the Police’s actions. It was important to provide the public relevant and specific facts, in order to maintain public confidence in the Police Force.
11. The Member has also asked about Rules and Guidelines on what information can be published. Police decisions on what information to disclose are guided by existing legal requirements.
12. With the proliferation of social media, public agencies will from time to time need to release information faster than used to be the case. It may not always be possible in all cases to wait for a trial to commence or be concluded, a process which may take weeks or months, before releasing relevant facts to the public. When the Police assess that it is necessary to release information earlier, they will do so, while being careful not to prejudice any investigations or legal proceedings that may follow.