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IGP: Confusing suspects and witnesses?

“If that is the case, then those who want to lodge police reports after office hours can see Karpal.”

INSPECTOR-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan‘s retort to lawyer Karpal Singh, who said the police should stop interrogating witnesses after office hours following the High Court’s decision on 19 Nov that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) could not interrogate witnesses after office hours. On 21 Nov, Musa said the court ruling did not apply to the police, which drew a rebuke from Karpal.

Musa said Karpal’s demand that police stop interrogations after office hours was tantamount to asking police stations to close at 5pm. He said police had a duty to ensure law and order “round the clock”, and that it was pointless for police to operate if they could not record statements from witnesses after office hours. Police still had to record statements from witnesses even if they came to the police station after working hours, he said. (Source: ‘Does Karpal want us to close at 5?’ says IGP, The Star, 24 Nov 2009)

“This is a clear ruling that suspects cannot be questioned or interrogated at such times. If such protection is granted to suspects, there is no reason why it should not be extended to witnesses.”

Lawyer Karpal Singh, refuting Musa’s claim that the High Court ruling on the MACC’s interrogation hours did not apply to the police. Karpal said the police were governed by even more specific laws that clearly stipulated the times when detainees must be in the lock up. These are the Police Lock-up Rules 1953, where Rule 20 states that detainees must be behind bars from 6:30pm to 6:30am to allow them to rest. (Source: Karpal: Office hours ruling for cops as well, New Straits Times, 22 Nov 2009)

The High Court ruling on the MACC clarified Section 30(3)(a) of the MACC Act, which states that a witness can be questioned from “day to day”. The court decided that this phrase did not mean “round the clock” but “normal working hours”.

Karpal was representing Kajang municipal councillor Tan Boon Wah, who sued the MACC for illegal detention, and sought a declaration that the MACC could only lawfully record statements from him as a witness during office hours.

“In that case, the judge ruled that the police had breached Rule 20 of the Lock-up Rules when recording the cautioned statement as it was done at odd hours.

“Therefore, the IGP should be cautious in making statements regarding the High Court ruling on the interrogation of witnesses.”

Karpal, when urging Musa to direct the police to stop interrogating witnesses outside office hours. He warned that the IGP could be in contempt of another High Court judgement on the murder case involving former Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Mokhtar Hashim. In that case, the co-accused was freed after the judge ruled that the cautioned statement taken down by police was inadmissible because of when it was recorded. (Source: Karpal: Office hours ruling for cops as well, New Straits Times, 22 Nov 2009)

“The question is not whether witnesses, including victims, voluntarily come forward after office hours to have their statements recorded. The question is whether, in law, they are required to do so, and whether the police can compel them to do so.

“Tan Sri Musa Hassan appears to be thoroughly confused in his approach to the issue.”

Karpal, responding to Musa’s jibe to close police stations at 5pm. Speaking to reporters in Parliament, Karpal, who is also the Bukit Gelugor Member of Parliament, said Musa was missing the point that if suspects were accorded protection, then witnesses should be entitled to protection as well.

The Criminal Procedure Code, which governs the recording of witnesses’ statements, does not prescribe a time frame; but since the Police Lock-up Rules 1953, which deals with suspects, does, witnesses should logically be entitled to this protection, too. (Source: Karpal ridicules IGP’s ‘bizarre’ statement, Malaysian Insider, 24 Nov 2009)

“If these are the rules for suspects, what more for a witness?”

Criminal lawyer Datuk Baljit Singh Sidhu, explaining how the Police Lock-up Rules 1953 governing police interrogations place a similar onus on the MACC when questioning witnesses. (Source: The problem with the MACC, The Nut Graph, 4 Aug 2009)

Whatever Musa thinks about police interrogation methods, lawyers are actually looking to police laws to guide the MACC Act, which is a newer law. Thus, police have much clearer laws on interrogation hours to follow. Moreover, in saying that ceasing interrogations after office hours is akin to closing police stations at 5pm, Musa neglects to differentiate between a suspect already in custody, and a witness who can come voluntarily even after office hours to have his or her statement recorded. favicon

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6 Responses to “IGP: Confusing suspects and witnesses?”

  1. Nicholas Aw says:

    An interesting argument, Deborah. Obviously, the IGP is trying to vent his frustration at Karpal and the courts.

    I absolutely agree that Musa is confused. This is perhaps a result of his emotional outburst. It is clear that no interrogation is to be carried out after office hours but that does not mean that the police cannot take down reports from the public and carry out other forms of investigations.

    Musa’s recent action is likened to a small boy throwing tantrums because his lollipop has been taken away.

  2. goh hung chung says:

    You have to be very naive to expect an intelligent response from a person who is unfit for the post of IGP.

  3. Tan says:

    Some of our cabinet ministers also behave the same way and blame the press for misquoting them when told of the backlash.

  4. abc says:

    Apa itu? Witness and suspect. Both the same mah.

    Kita MACC and poilce serupa. Darn, it must be my English.

  5. Gopal Raj Kumar says:

    [...]

    There is a need to be able to question a witness at any time of day. In this respect, the High Court’s recent decision in this regard was flawed and wrong.

    The right to question at any time goes to the very heart of the requirement of evidence and its credibility when made contemporaneously with the commission of an offence or event.

    Unless a person is given the opportunity (and that comes in questioning) to recall and to detail as soon as is possible the facts and details of an event that is the subject of the investigation, the flux of time (and depending on age and condition of the individual) may interfere with the memory or accuracy of the recollection of the individual [...].

    Evidence, especially evidence taken from a person in questioning whether voluntarily or in interrogation, can only be reliable if their statements are contemporaneous as far as is possible with the commission or witnessing of an act or event.

    An hour’s delay in some circumstances (where delayed shock or trauma for instance) may severely disrupt an investigation.

    [...]

  6. Dino Aarone says:

    Rakyat malu mempunyai Ketua Polis [seperti ini].


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