Friday, April 09, 2010

Law on found items

The Police told me that I am not allowed to keep found items and that these items have to be reported to a neighborhood police station. The officer asked, "Did I consult a lawyer about my Lost & Found portal?"

I am not aware that there is a law regarding the return of found items to the Police. The Police officer was not able to point out the law to me anyway. If the Police does not know, how do you expect the citizens to know about such a law?

I searched the Internet to look for the existence of such a law in Singapore. I could not find any mention of it. I know that there is a law against theft of property. If somone finds a property that could be traced to the owner, e.g. car, computer, mobile phone, and keeps the property or sells it away, the finder could be guilty of stealing the property. In that case, it is better for the finder to report the found item and hand it over to the Police to be kept in its centralised store.

But the Police should make it clear to the public that they can report a lost item to be traced. The Police needs an efficient matching system. Perhaps they can use my portal or create one of their own.

There is the concept of "finders keepers". I believe that if an item is lost and it is not possible for the finder to trace the owner, the finder is entitled to keep the item. However, if the owner comes back one day to claim the item, and assuming that the owner is able to prove ownership, then the item has to be returned to the owner.

Tan Kin Lian


Anonymous said...

The police prefers 'finders keeper' becuase they don't want to know. If you report it means work for them and because they have better things to do.

Anonymous said...

They are keyboard police and not the leg work police. They sit pretty in front of the computer pretending to monitor criminals.
Ask them whether they do report lost and found items in the press for public to come forward to claim and where they are kept.EG a wallet, a watch or torchlight or a handphone. I have not seen them do ing it . Do they have a portal? They should set up one as the country's law enforcement public servants , to help the public instead of looking for petty thing to pick on the public like your blog.

Anonymous said...

That is the problem in Singapore.
Civil servants are not serving the people. The lower level guys see it only as a job and slave to the scholars. Because if you are not a scholar you will forever be Grade B or C no matter how hard you work or excel. Must as well cover ass or minimise risk. The top level guys see it as a job to more monies as long as you do not screw up too. Their job is only to write good policy paper and research not serving the peopel. So when they ask you this question they just want to cover their ass that they have done something politically corect. They are not interested at all in helping pp find their lost items !

Vincent Sear said...

I've never heard of such a law. Shopping centres and airports, for example, run their own lost and found services without involving police. I understand it's only an offence if the item found is misappropriated for personal use instead of making reasonable effort to return it to its owner, Section 403 Chapter 224. It's not stealing; it's misappropriating.

Of course, handing it over to police is the easiest way to discharge any duty liable. However, I should think that running it on a lost and found portal is legally reasonable effort made to find the owner.

Anonymous said...

True, if the police does not know, how do you expect us to know.

C H Yak said...

I think it is an offence under the Penal Code if someone finds a lost item with the intention to keeping it as it suggests "misappropriation". The offence is committed if the person who finds it actually kept it.

But if something is found and the intention is to return it to the owner, I doubt that would still suggest "misappropriation".

I believe our Police should know this as it is common knowledge for them but not for layman like us.

Anonymous said...

Next time, if you found a ten cent coin or dollar coin please make report to the nearest police post and make sure you give a statement as to how you found it.Let's see how they treat it. Remind them it is illegal to keep the dollar coin becuase it belonged to someone and someone is poorer by one dollar before being charged for misappropriation.

Vincent Sear said...

To : C H Yak

Yes, Penal Code clearly defined misappropriation. All police officers should know that. It's compulsory police academy syllabus.

If you picked up cash on the street, it's yours. There's no way to determine who dropped it.

But if you picked up a wallet containing cash and identification card (not necessarily NRIC but any form of traceable identification, e.g. bank card, employment pass), you should make an effort to return it whole to the owner, e.g. handover to police, bank or company through which owner can be traced and contacted.

If there's no direct means of traceable identification but the item itself is of obvious value, owned and lost by someone, e.g. a watch left behind in a public toilet, an effort should be made to find the owner or it should be handed over to police.

In the past, it's common for considerate finders who dislike dealing with police to advertise in newspaper lost and found columns. This practice has faded away since advertising, even classified text only, has become very expensive nowadays.

It's always been a lawful practice though. So I don't see any difference in running an internet lost and found portal and how could that be illegal.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous @ 10:29am

".... The top level guys see it as a job to more monies as long as you do not screw up too...."

sorry I have to disagree with you on the above statement from your post because even if they screw up big time nothing really happens to them and they continue to collect their millions salary.

A classic example of this is the escape of that limping terrorist from ISD. Another example will be the failed investment by GIC and Temasek Holding resulting in the lost of billions of dollars.

The list can just go on and on......



Parka said...

Seems to me like the Police can't substantiate what they say about the need to return a lost item.

I would say go ahead with the portal.

The maximum penalty is simply just to return the item.

But I'm not a legal expert.

Anonymous said...

It's not easy to provide a business or service if you are not wearing the approved colour in your clothing.

Anonymous said...

2 wrongs dont make a right, yah ?

Pls see S.403 of Penal Code and the illustrations.

"Ignorantia Juris Non Excusat"

Anonymous said...

I said this before, and I'll say it again: Anything good, "they" won't call us.

Anonymous said...

Do they even need a reason or law if they are intend to "catch" someone?

Just see the wayang they did to the SDP guys jailed for "procession" and distributing leaflets. These buggers jail people based on instruction from "god" and without even knowing what law has been broken.

Anonymous said...

Heh, well I suppose I'm qualified enough to tell you that under Singapore law if you find it it's yours subject to the true owner asking for it back.

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