Ok for police to arrest and detain lawyer to find out client's whereabouts - Court of Appeal - 2009/08/27 12:13I am shocked by the decision of the Court of Appeal, and lawyers must stand up and protest. The Court of Appeal has upheld the detention of a lawyer by police 11 years ago to obtain information on the whereabouts of his client.
Judge Datuk Md Raus Sharif, in dismissing the appeal by Leonard Teoh Hooi Leong, said the magistrate who issued the remand order was correct in law.
"The High Court judge was also right in the exercise of his revisionary powers," Raus said in the unanimous ruling. Sitting with him were Datuk Sulong Matjeraie and Datuk Ahmad Maarop.
In an immediate reaction, Bar Council chairman Ragunath Kesavan said the decision was a serious dilution of the client-solicitor privilege and raised the question whether lawyers could mount a valid defence in a criminal case.
"It is implicit that lawyers can be arrested by police to obtain information," he said, adding that the ruling was regressive in the criminal justice system.
Lawyer G. Ragumaren held a watching brief for the council as the legal fraternity had awaited this decision following the High Court decision 11 years ago.
Teoh, in an affidavit, said he acted as lawyer for former Citibank executive Nor Aishah Bokhari who converted to Christianity in November 1997.
He was arrested on Jan 13, 1998, when he refused to reveal the whereabouts of Nor Aishah who went missing from her parents' home in Pontian, Johor, on Dec 30, 1997.
The police had told Teoh that he was arrested for aiding and abetting the kidnapping of Nor Aishah.
The Pontian magistrate's court, on Jan 14, 1998, ordered Teoh to be remanded for seven days following an application by the police. The remand was later extended another three days.
Teoh then applied to the Johor Baru High Court to revise the decision of the magistrate but it was dismissed on Jan 19, 1998.
At the Court of Appeal yesterday, Teoh's counsel Karpal Singh submitted that the information was a client-solicitor communication and the withholding of such information was not contrary to the Evidence Act.
"How could any information between a client and solicitor be in furtherance of a crime in which the client (Nor Aishah) was the victim," he asked.
Karpal said Teoh was only a witness but was made to look like a suspect although he had nothing to do with the kidnapping.
He said Teoh was held for 10 days under police custody and as a professional, his client wanted to clear his name as the matter was reported in law journals.
Deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Bache said the appeal should be dismissed as the subject matter was a remand order.
"It is academic because he had been released," he said.
Raus then asked Ahmad what remedy Teoh could resort to for unlawful detention.
Ahmad replied that Teoh could resort to civil action and this was not a forum to vindicate himself.
"The Court of Appeal will open the floodgates if the appeal is allowed. It will also amount to an abuse of court process," he said.
Ahmad said the magistrate had acted judiciously in issuing the remand order after having heard the investigating officer who had also produced his investigation diary. - New Straits Times, 27/8/2009, Court upholds detention of missing client's lawyer
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Raymond Chu Hon Fai
Re:Ok for police to arrest and detain lawyer to find out client's whereabouts - Court of Appeal - 2010/02/12 11:32If the reported case is correct, believe this is about more than 10 years since the matter appeared in the law books.
Actually, how frequent have such matters being reported?
Is this abuse of human rights per se ?
Withholding of information by not co-operating with the police could have escalated the legal infirmities.
Don't think, every Malaysian of over 25 million population will think this is abuse of human rights, although, more can be done for public awareness.
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