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Review representation procedure in criminal cases, Bar urges AGC

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The Malaysian Bar has urged the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) to review the procedures involved in deciding whether to discontinue or withdraw case proceedings.

"The Bar is of the view that, in the wake of recent disquieting decisions to discontinue and/or withdraw proceedings in several high-profile cases - in particular, the recent controversial decision to withdraw the murder charge in Penang, which is believed to have been left to the discretion of one or more individuals - it is high time to overhaul the process.

"The Malaysian Bar calls on the public prosecutor to conduct a further review of the procedure for considering representations in criminal proceedings, in the interest of promoting an efficient and effective system of administration of justice," said Bar president Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor in a statement yesterday.

Even the new procedure, as stated in the Public Prosecutor's Direction No. 2/2019 (PPD 2/2019) dated May 3, may jeopardise fairness and efficiency in criminal proceedings as well as lead to difficulties in criminal practice, he said.

Right now the "unclear" procedure consists of lawyers writing letters of representation to the deputy public prosecutors (DPP) at any stage of the trial process and the DPP decides whether to proceed with prosecution, Fareed added.

Under the new directions from the public prosecutor, the process to consider the representations for each and every case will involve the solicitor-general III, solicitor-general II as well as the solicitor-general.

This "multi-layered" process will take time and consequently, according to the PPD 2/2019, there should be no adjournment of trials while representations are being deliberated upon as both should "run parallel".

"However, it would be highly impractical and also unfair for the trial to run concurrently with the process of considering representations, as mounting a defence involves considerable cost, both financially and emotionally, to all parties involved," said Fareed.

As such, the Bar proposes for the deliberations of representations to be undertaken by two committees instead.

The first committee would deal with cases involving the death penalty where it would comprise of high-ranking officials of the AGC, whereas the second committee would deal with all other cases.

The second committee should consist of senior state DPPs and senior officers from Putrajaya or a task force comprising of state legal advisors, state prosecution directors and several senior DPPs.

"This proposed procedure is more streamlined and efficient, and is anticipated to be less time-consuming.

"As such, the AGC should not object to a DPP agreeing to a reasonable request for an adjournment pending the outcome of a committee’s consideration of representation," he said. 

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