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Thu, Jun 12, 2008
The Straits Times
Escape bid from court: SOPs not followed

A BREACH in procedure allowed two detainees to make an escape bid from the lock-up at the Subordinate Courts on Wednesday, said police, which will carry out a probe to see if there was any negligence involving the officers.

Although the two men were re-arrested swiftly after their dash to freedom, the lunchtime breakout attempt will again raise questions about complacency and readiness levels withing the security forces, coming so soon after the escape of terrorist Mas Selamat Kasturi in late February.

Commissioner of Police Khoo Boon Hui said in a statement issued at midnight: 'We have a proper system to manage persons-in-custody. Though our officers have arrested the two men expeditiously, I am treating the matter seriously and have directed CID to investigate into the escape, including whether there was any negligence involving the officers.

'Actions will be taken against those found to have not carried out their duties properly.'

The flight to freedom for the escaped detainees was short-lived. One of them did not make it out of the court building. He was apparently tripped and fell near the security checkpoint at the court entrance and was pinned down by three uniformed officers and brought back to the lock-up.

The other man managed to get as far as the driveway of the nearby Furama Hotel about 100m away after leaping over a rope barrier and dashing out of the building, with a pack of security guards and cops in hot pursuit. He was caught and brought back to custody.

Police said the duo had appeared in Court on Wednesday's morning for separate charges related to robbery with hurt. They were brought back to the lock-up to be transferred to the Queenstown Remand Prison and were placed in the same cell.

At about 1.45pm, a police officer opened the cell gate to give water to one of the men who had asked for it.

On opening the gate, the two men seized the opportunity to attack the officer and charged out. They continued to assault the police officer violently, punching and kicking him in the face and stomach, said the police statement.

While the Police officer was down on the floor, they made their way to a gate at the exit of the lock-up. They then pressed a buzzer to indicate for the gate to be opened.

Officer did not follow procedure
'According to procedure, the police officer responding to the buzzer should verify the identity of the person via the CCTV before opening the gate. He failed to do so,' said the statement.

'He opened the gate without checking, thereby enabling the two men to make their way through a stairwell leading to the ground floor public area of the Subordinate Courts.'

An alert was raised and police officers were immediately deployed to seal off all exits.

Within 10 minutes of the escape, police officers spotted both escapees at the lobby and managed to subdue one of them just before the main entrance. The other tried to dash out of the Subordinate Courts. He was arrested after a short chase.

For voluntarily causing hurt to a public servant, the two men may be jailed up to seven years, fined, and caned.

They will also be charged for escape from legal custody, which carries a jail term of up to two years and fine, if convicted.


 

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