LETTER | The recent developments surrounding the death of a prison inmate in the Penang Prison raises questions about the need to remand and detain prisoners.
This especially those facing charges which are bailable such as minor offences as opposed to those deemed to be non-bailable under the Criminal Procedure Code, such as charges like murder where the prisoner faces capital punishment which is death by hanging.
We appreciate the fact that the prison authorities have recently announced that prisoners who are serving jail terms for minor offences and who are due to be released in three or four months time will be released immediately to prevent the spread of Covid-19 amongst prisoners.
However, I also wish to urge the courts throughout the country to consider granting bail for all accused persons under the age of 16 years or any women or any sick or infirm person who is accused of a non-bailable offence as provided under Section 388 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
Not unlike as was recently decided by the Court of Appeal on Sept 14 in the case of Santhiea v PP. This will prevent the overcrowding in the local prisons and act as a temporary measure to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Section 388 of the Criminal Procedure Code reads as follows:
388. (1) When any person accused of any non-bailable offence is arrested or detained without warrant by a police officer or appears or is brought before a Court, he may be released on bail by the officer in charge of the Police District or by that Court, but he shall not be so released if there appears reasonable grounds for believing that he has been guilty of an offence punishable with death or imprisonment for life:
"Provided that the Court may direct that any person under the age of sixteen years or any woman or any sick or infirm person accused of such an offence be released on bail,
(2) If it appears to such officer or Court at any stage of the investigation, inquiry or trial, as the case may be, that there are no reasonable grounds for believing that the accused has committed a non-bailable offence, but there are sufficient grounds for further inquiry into his guilt, the accused shall, pending such inquiry, be released on bail, or, at the discretion of that officer or Court, on the execution by him of a bond without sureties for his appearance as hereinafter provided.
(3) An officer or a Court releasing any person on bail under subsection (1) or (2) shall record in writing the reasons for so doing.
(4) If at any time after the conclusion of the trial of a person accused of a non-bailable offence and before judgment is delivered, the Court is of opinion that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accused is not guilty of the offence, it shall release the accused, if he is in custody, on the execution by him of a bond without sureties for his appearance to hear judgment delivered.
(5) Any Court may at any subsequent stage of any proceeding under this Code cause any person who has been released under this section to be arrested and may commit him to custody."
The writer is DAP Member of Parliament for Jelutong.
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