It was recently reported that during a coroner’s inquest, a Sessions Court Judge had made the decision to disallow the relevant documents to be served to the lawyer of Mohd Fadzrin Zaidi, who died in custody in 2019 in Kepala Batas.1 While the Malaysian Bar respects the Court’s decision, we have our concerns, as the very purpose of an inquest is to investigate and determine the cause of death of those who have died under unexplained circumstances.
Any lawyer who represents parties in an inquest will certainly need to peruse documents in order to provide effective representation during an inquest. In the case of Retnarasa a/l Annarasa v Public Prosecutor,2 the Court took the view that a magistrate had the discretion with regard to the release of documents in an inquest. However, such discretion should, in general, be exercised in favour of release of such documents. The relevant court practice directions too should be of assistance in addressing such issues. We hope that clear precedence can be established to allow the lawyers and families of those who have died in custody to participate in the process of determining the cause of death of their loved ones.
The Malaysian Bar therefore urges the Government to introduce a Coroners Act that would strengthen the role of coroners through fundamental structural reforms, and provide greater clarity in its inquiry processes.
11 March 2021
1 “Four postponements, no documents – and family of ‘death in lock-up’ man are angry”, Free Malaysia Today, 9 March 2021.
2  8 MLJ 608.