Sunday 15 September 2013

MHA: Claim that inmate was deliberately assaulted 'false'

Press Release by The Ministry of Home Affairs and Selvi D/O Narayanasamy -23 Apr 2014

Allegations by family of man who died in jail 'cast aspersions' on prison service
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 14 Sep 2013

THE Home Affairs Ministry yesterday responded to allegations made by the family of Dinesh Raman Chinnaiah, who died in prison, in their civil suit against the Government.

Dinesh, 21, died of breathing difficulties after being restrained following an unprovoked attack on a prison warden on Sept 27, 2010.

The family has claimed that Dinesh was deliberately assaulted and that physical symptoms were ignored.

The Government yesterday reiterated that it "accepts full responsibility" for his death and that it has offered to compensate the family.

But the family has not made any formal claim and instead suggested that "they would be prepared to 'settle' the matter for substantial windfall amounts".

The spokesman said: "If the Government cannot reach an agreement with Dinesh Raman's family, it will leave it to the Court to decide on the appropriate quantum of compensation."

More details about Dinesh also emerged yesterday in the statement.

He was a member of a secret society who did not complete his O levels and did not hold any stable job before he went to jail.

Dinesh was convicted of rioting and theft on Dec 12, 2007, and sentenced to a reformative training centre. He was released on Jan 6, 2010, subject to good behaviour.

But a week later, his mother, Madam Selvi Narayanasamy, 45, took out a personal protection order against him after he hurt her.

This order was breached on March 28 that year when Dinesh threatened to hurt her again after she rejected his request for money.

Madam Selvi called the police and Dinesh was sent back to the centre on June 1.

Although there was no formal claim, the ministry has offered compensation "calculated on the premise that Dinesh would have gone on to the Institute of Technical Education and have had a stable job".

The five-page statement came after lawyer M. Ravi chastised the ministry for denouncing the allegations in a statement on Thursday, while the matter "is now before the High Court".

But the ministry spokesman noted that Mr Ravi had gone public with the allegations even before the writ had officially been served on the Government.

The spokesman said: "It was the family and its lawyers who started making statements in public... without regard to the truth or the fact that the matter was before the Court."

Family suing Govt for damages despite compensation offer
Mother contests official account, alleges son died from intentional assault
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 13 Sep 2013

THE family of an inmate who had died in prison is suing the Government for general and aggravated damages despite an offer of compensation.

The mother, who is represented by lawyers M. Ravi and Eugene Thuraisingam, is also contesting the official account of events, alleging that Dinesh Raman Chinnaiah, 21, had died from "intentional assault".

The Government said yesterday that the family did not take up an offer to meet the pathologist or submit any formal claims for compensation.

Despite this, the Government, which has accepted responsibility for the death, had made the offer of compensation on Sept 10 based on "established principles of liability", said the Home Affairs Ministry yesterday.

An Attorney-General's Chambers spokesman yesterday confirmed the suit filed by the family has been served. "We are studying it carefully and we are unable to comment on it at this point in time."

The latest development comes after the Attorney-General rejected a bid from the family last month to reopen the coroner's inquiry into Dinesh's death because there were "no new matters raised" that warranted further investigations.

Dinesh was convicted for rioting and theft, and had been released conditionally after serving time. But he was later remanded for breaching a personal protection order taken by his mother against him.

According to an autopsy report seen by The Straits Times, "multiple external injuries, mostly in the form of abrasions and some bruises" were found on Dinesh. This was "consistent with the deceased having been physically restrained in a prone position upon a hard surface, possibly with handcuffs... being applied to the wrists".

The pathologist found Dinesh died of positional asphyxiation, or breathing difficulties because of the position he was in, on Sept 27, 2010.

The court had heard in July that Dinesh kicked a warden in his abdomen in an unprovoked attack. It took eight officers half an hour to restrain him. He was put in an isolation cell with his head to the side and left in a prone position.

Senior prison officer Lim Kwo Yin, 36, pleaded guilty to causing death by negligence and was fined $10,000.

Mr Ravi told The Straits Times that the plaintiffs' version was pieced from police reports and accounts given by inmates who had witnessed the altercation. "Aggravated damages are being sought in addition to the general damages because the actions by the officers were not merely a negligent act but deliberate and intentional," he said.

The plaintiffs alleged that Dinesh was provoked into pointing the middle finger and uttering an expletive at a prison officer who was deemed to be biased against him.

They claimed the officer was so angered that, together with several others, he "set upon Dinesh and assaulted him". During the altercation, the officers had also allegedly ignored him although he was drooling from the mouth and perspiring profusely.

A coroner's inquiry into the death was discontinued after Lim's guilty plea. The state coroner exercised his discretion to do so because the cause and circumstances surrounding Dinesh's death had already been placed before the court.

* Mother of dead inmate withdraws legal actions
She makes settlement with the State, bringing saga to a close
By Selina Lum, The Straits Times, 24 Apr 2014

THE mother of an inmate who died in prison more than three years ago has withdrawn all her legal actions against the State, after reaching an "amicable settlement" with the Government last week.

The settlement sum - proposed by Madam Selvi Narayanasamy, 45 - is confidential. But a joint statement released yesterday by the Ministry of Home Affairs and Madam Selvi said it was "at a level which the Government had indicated from the start it was prepared to consider".

The Government had admitted responsibility for the death of Dinesh Raman Chinnaiah, 21, and offered a compensation sum on Sept 10 last year, which Madam Selvi turned down.

The settlement brings to a close the saga over the death of Dinesh, who suffered breathing difficulties after being placed chest down and left in an isolation cell following an attack on a warden on Sept 27, 2010.

In July last year, senior prison officer Lim Kwo Yin, 36, pleaded guilty to causing death by a negligent act and was fined $10,000.

Mr Lim, a deputy superintendent, was supervising a group of seven other officers at Changi Prison who were trying to subdue Dinesh after he kicked a prison officer in the abdomen.

After Mr Lim was fined, a coroner's inquiry into the death was halted, a move which led to questions being raised.

The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) later clarified that when criminal proceedings have already determined how a death occurred, the coroner has the discretion to discontinue an inquiry if he thinks it is no longer needed.

In August, Second Minister for Home Affairs S. Iswaran said in Parliament that the Government accepted responsibility for the death, and will compensate Dinesh's family.

His family called for the coroner's inquiry to be reopened, but the AGC rejected their bid.

Madam Selvi then filed an application for a judicial review in the High Court, challenging the coroner's decision not to proceed.

Separately, she filed a civil suit against the Government seeking damages, despite the offer of compensation.

Her bid for a judicial review was dismissed in October last year and an appeal was heard on April 8 by the Court of Appeal, which reserved judgment.

Things took a twist a week later when Madam Selvi and the Government arrived at a settlement.

The settlement is "on a full and final basis, in relation to all claims, disputes, issues and matters whatsoever relating to, arising from or in connection with the death of Dinesh", yesterday's statement said.

It said Madam Selvi has "unreservedly and unconditionally" withdrawn allegations of assault and abuse of authority she made against prison officers in her lawsuit.

She has also accepted "unconditionally and unequivocally" that the death was caused solely through Mr Lim's negligence, and the discontinuance of the inquiry was in accordance with the law.

Her lawyer M. Ravi, speaking after formally withdrawing her appeal in court, said she was "quite happy" with the settlement.

"It is also closure for her. She has decided to move on with her life," he said, adding that "she felt vindicated" as she had her case heard before the High Court and the Court of Appeal.

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