Friday, April 26, 2013

Lawyers share false rape stories

SINGAPORE - When he reported that he had been robbed at knife point, Clementi Police Division quickly questioned potential witnesses at the crime scene in the vicinity of Stirling Road.

But when the 21-year-old "victim" himself was probed, it became clear that there was no robbery.

It turned out he had made a false report on April 10 after gambling away $2,000.

The incident prompted the Clementi Police Division chief, Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Police Melvin Yong, to remind the public on the consequences of giving false information and wasting police resources.

The maximum penalty is imprisonment for a year and a $5,000 fine.

"Such cases of false reports are fairly common, they are a great inconvenience and a waste of expenses," said Mr Rajan Supramaniam, a lawyer at Hilborne & Co.

Police said they do not monitor the number of false police reports made and those punished for making such reports.

In the "robbery" case, the false report did not name a suspect. But sometimes, an innocent person is falsely named and subjected to police investigations.

"Sometimes there are lovers' spats, leading to accusations of molest, and these accusations are made out of anger" said Mr Rajan. He added that about one in five of the false report cases he has dealt with was made by someone who wanted to exact revenge on the accused.

Mr Rajan, who has been a lawyer for 13 years, estimates that he has handled around 50 cases based on false reports.

Lawyers shared with The New Paper cases that they handled.

For Mr Ramesh Tiwary, one case stands out.

More than 10 years ago, the criminal lawyer represented a Sri Lankan maid who was charged with making a false report. She had previously accused her employer of rape.

While she was being interviewed, she broke down and confessed to making a false accusation.

The maid was sent back to Sri Lanka.

Maids making false accusations

Mr Rajan said that cases of maids making false accusations against their employers are not rare. These maids accuse their employer of failing to pay their wages, abusing or molesting them.

"They do this because they are unhappy or because they want to leave the country," he said.

"Making such false reports is dangerous, as there can be serious consequences. People may be imprisoned till their names are cleared," said Mr Tiwary.

So how are such false claims uncovered? Mr Luke Lee, a former police investigator-turned-lawyer, said that discrepancies usually arise when "victims" are questioned.

He said: "I had a case where my client was accused of molesting his colleague in the storeroom. Following further interrogation, it was discovered that she had consented to it."

And three years ago, lawyer Gloria James, of Gloria James-Civetta & Co, represented a woman who had accused her boyfriend, who was married to another woman, of raping her.

It resulted in a police investigation where officers recorded statements from the woman and detained the man for investigation.

The sex was found to be consensual and she was charged and sentenced to two weeks in jail.

Said Ms James of such false reports:"By getting another into trouble, you too are looking at bigger trouble for yourself."