Today's post will be about my Law School field trip made to the Bukit Aman Police Headquarters a few weeks ago. There are 12 departments under the Criminal Investigation Division of the Royal Malaysia Police, and we specifically made visit to the D11 the Sexual, Domestic Abuse and Child Investigation Division.
In my second year of law school I am taking the subject of criminal law and the field trip that day was relevant to our topic of Sexual Offences. We have spoken to the senior officers of the division and it gave us a lot of insight on how the police operate with regards to the sexual and domestic abuse crimes upon women and children committed in Malaysia. I will be sharing a little of what I received from the field trip. This post will be a little heavier than usual but I will try my best to explain everything in simpler terms. :)
"Domestic violence is a toothless tiger" was claimed by a judge under the case Chan Ah Moi v Phang Wai Ann (1995) because under the old Domestic Violence Act 1994, 'punching, kicking and assaulting' were non-seizable offences. With that, there was 'no immediate need for the police to investigate unless the deputy public prosecutor (DPP) issues an order to investigate'. The situation is not so anymore. With the new Domestic Violence (Amendment) Act 2012, apart from violence with dangerous weapons, physical violence, as well as phychological, social and sexual violence are now covered under the act. All the offences are seizable offences, which means the police will be required to conduct immediate investigations.
To initiate police investigation, victims suffering from sexual and domestic abuse must firstly lodge a police report. The division urge victims to lodge their police reports as soon as possible, because after 72 hours of delay, the biological evidence (ie. semen left by the raper) and injuries (ie. bruises) will most probably cease to exist and that may result in lack of evidence. And do note that, the police cannot initiate investigation without the victim's consent. The officers claimed a lot of cases of which the wife lodged a police report for domestic abuse from the husband, but refused for the police to investigate, the police will not be able to do anything to help her. In the end, whether or not to get help from the police, it is all up to the victim.
The D11 is headed by trained all-woman officers because they see the need for female officers to handle sensitive issues. This is to overcome cases where the victims are shy or ashamed in what they've been through, be it sexual or domestic abuse. There are certified counselors to guide the victims, give advice and assist them in lodging a police report if they don't know how to. There is also the Victim Care Center where victims can get psychological first aid until they are mentally stable to provide better evidence for the case.
They also have the Children Investigation Center (CIC), where child victims are brought in to provide evidence by way of a recording of the interview between the child and the investigation officer. The center is child friendly and has toys around to relax the child. They will reach out to the child as a friend, often by play therapy, before conducting the interview. When the child is comfortable with the surrounding and the officer only then the investigation will be carried out.
In the cases of missing children, the National Urgent Response (NUR) Alert was launched in 2010. This functions similarly to the Amber Alerts in the United States. When a child under 10 years old is reported missing, announcements will be blasted through partners such as highway signs, ATM kiosks, shopping malls etc all around the country to rise awareness of the public. When asked, 'why is the NUR Alert only limited to missing children under 10?' The answer of the police officer was, in the case of missing teenagers most ran away from home either following their friends or boyfriends, where as in the case of missing old people, sometimes they would wander off and couldn't find their way back. As for children, most are of criminal cases involving kidnappers so priority is given to the children. Also, if all the missing people announcements were to be blasted through the said outlets simultaneously, the time spread of each announcement will be reduced which will directly reduce the efficiency of the alert. Last year, there were 12 children reported missing; 10 were found thanks to the NUR Alert.
When asked, 'Why are so many cases of rape and violence in Malaysia but so little of the accused being brought to justice?' The incompetence of the police were often blamed for this scenario (I used to have this mindset too) but more often than not, it is not their fault.
Sometimes yes, maybe due to the negligence of the police in collecting evidence. But in many instances, there is really no sufficient evidence from the investigations for the prosecutor to start trial against the accused in court due to the delay of the victim's report itself. Sometimes the case is successfully brought to court but in the end the judge finds the accused not guilty, so the wrong-doer runs free. With play of roles of the judiciary and the attorney general's office in such cases, there is nothing the police could do. It is not fair to put all the blame on the police.
On to a more general question, 'The perception of the people towards the police of Malaysia are mostly negative. Mindsets generally are for example, the police are all corrupted. And uneducated. What are your thoughts on that?'
She agreed. On education, the officer said it is not necessarily all police are not educated. In fact, the police such as herself were given a lot of opportunities by the government to upgrade themselves with chances to further their education and study overseas to gain expertise in their specific fields. She also urges us law students to consider joining the police force in the future. On competence, the officer explained that there used to be very good policemen back in the days. But she can also observe a decline in attitude and drive of the younger generation of police nowadays.
The trip was an eye-opening one and I've learned a lot of new things I didn't know about before. After my visit, my perception towards the police changed. There might still be horrible policemen we face in our daily lives, but we cannot as a whole disregard the good ones too.
This post made me feel like I'm writing an assignment paper haha! But I really enjoyed the experience and really enjoyed writing this post today. I hope my readers leave my blog today with some knowledge gained. :)
With all the love,