The Malaysian Bar refers to the article published by MyMetro on 23 Aug 2019, with the headline "Ulat 'loyar buruk'".
Touts are persons who receive commissions from law firms in return for securing clients for the law firms. Touts typically approach members of the public who are in need of legal representation, and apply pressure on them to engage the law firms that the touts represent. Sometimes touts make enticing claims, including promising to settle matters expediently upon payment of an ascertained sum of money. Touts can be members of the public or even Members of the Malaysian Bar, Court officials or the police. The consequence of being involved in the offence of touting varies according to who is doing it.
Touting is abhorrent to the legal profession and detrimental to the public interest, and the Malaysian Bar views touting seriously. The Bar Council has consistently spoken out against touting and has actively pursued various means to eradicate this menace, including lodging complaints with the Advocates and Solicitors Disciplinary Board against Members of the Bar who are alleged to be involved in touting. However, the very nature of the offence of touting has meant that very few complaints are lodged against such persons, and even if lodged, are difficult to prove.
Section 15A of the Minor Offences Act 1955 which states that any person who is found guilty of "touting" shall be guilty of an offence punishable with a fine not exceeding RM500 or with imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to both. For Members of the Bar, touting amounts to professional misconduct by virtue of Section 94(3)(h) of the Legal Profession Act 1976 and Rule 51 of the Legal Profession (Practice & Etiquette) Rules 1978. The Member can be subject to disciplinary action, which may result in various sanctions, including he/she being suspended or struck off the Roll. As regards touting by Court officials and the police, such conduct amounts to an abuse of their public office and enters the realm of corruption offences.
Touting continues to take place due to a multitude of reasons, including members of the public having difficulty in finding a lawyer, the public's lack of knowledge about various legal aid schemes available to them, and the lack of safeguards in place to prevent touts from operating within the premises of the Court. This is compounded by the lack of a deterrent punishment for the offence of touting under the Minor Offences Act 1955.
The Malaysian Bar now calls upon the authorities and our partners in the administration of justice to work together to eliminate once and for all the egregious offence of touting. Members of the public are reminded not to fall prey to such touts, and stricter enforcement by the Courts and the police via systematic surveillance and concerted efforts to stamp out such abuse of power, are key in combating this offence.
The justice system that was built to deliver recourse to the public cannot and should not be used as a vehicle to take advantage of and manipulate members of the public, particularly those who are caught in vulnerable situations.
Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor
27 August 2019