Photo of Law Society President Senior Counsel Thio Shen Yi from Straits Times

In a rare public display of criticism, outgoing Law Society President Thio Shen Yi said that his clash with Law Minister K Shanmugam over a case where police intimidation led to a suicide of a 14-year-old boy, was a  badge of honour.

Earlier in February this year, the the Singapore Police sent 5 plainclothes policemen to haul the 14-year-old boy up at his school for questioning over an alleged molest case. The boy did not have access to a lawyer and his parents were denied the right to be present during the questioning. After the police questioning, the boy went home visibly shaken by the police and jumped to his death just hours after the questioning.

Law Society Thio Shen Yi then criticized the Singapore Police saying that a less intimidating approach should have been taken when handling a 14year-old:

“If Benjamin had a lawyer present to give advice during the course of the (police) interview, would things have turned out differently? We will never have certainty, but it is not impossible to imagine a different outcome, and if that is possible, then one more question: How then should we act?”

Law Minister K Shanmugam was enraged by the Law Society President’s comments and threatened that his comments may amount to Contempt of Court:

“His statements imply that Benjamin killed himself because of police intimidation. Where the police are wrong, we must and will take action. But we should not allow deliberate, dishonest attacks.”

The Law Minister also slammed online news site TheOnline Citizen for fabricating “deliberate falsehoods to tar the police”.

The government’s state coroner absolved the Singapore Police of all responsibilities over the boy’s suicide and even praised the police and school’s measures taken “commendable”.

Shortly after the Benjamin Lim’s case, a new Contempt of Court law was passed in August 2016 to squash criticisms of the Singapore police and judiciary.

Law Society President Thio Shen Yi will be replaced in January 2017.