Detainees will be safe from harm or self-harm if the detaining authorities abide by the rules, says High Court judge S. Nantha Balan.
PETALING JAYA: Lorry driver P Chandran died in custody simply because the police did not observe the Lock-Up Rules 1953, the High Court said.
Justice S. Nantha Balan said there was a duty to ensure that a detainee was not harmed by the police, by other detainees or they did not harm themselves, adding that this included ensuring detainees were healthy and given proper medical care.
Nantha made this observation in his 86-page judgment which found the police liable for negligently causing Chandran’s death in 2012.
The judge said under the rules, it was clear that the police must attend to the sick and in particular, when a detainee suffered from any form of mental illness.
“In my view the Lock-Up Rules is a complete code which governs the handling and management of detainees. Detainees would be safe from harm or self-harm if the detaining authorities abide by the rules,” Nantha said.
The judge pointed out that police were aware Chandran was ill and needed to take medication.
Nantha said he accepted the evidence of a witness who testified that even a magistrate holding remand proceedings had ordered the police to send Chandran for treatment if the need arose.
However, he said Inspector Mahezel Md who was investigating the kidnap case Chandran was alleged to have been involved in , took no steps to send the deceased to hospital.
“I am mindful that it is harsh to conclude that DW3 (Mahezal) had relinquished or abdicated his responsibility in failing to send the deceased to hospital,” he said.
Nantha said police witnesses testified they had complied with the rules but there was hardly any credible evidence.
The judge said there were an average of 17 deaths per year between 2000-2014 involving detainees based on the Human Rights Commission Report.
“Indeed, in a modern, matured and evolved constitutional democracy such as Malaysia, it is axiomatic and imperative there should be zero deaths of detainees in police custody,” he said.
On Monday, Nantha awarded a total of RM357,000 in damages to Chandran’s widow, N Selvi, and daughter, C Rita, for negligence and abuse of public office.
Another RM50,000 was awarded as costs.
Chandran, 47, died at the Dang Wangi police lock-up on Sept 10, 2012, four days after his arrest.
Post-mortem results revealed he succumbed to “hypertensive heart disease”.
During that period, he was not allowed to take the medication his family members tried to give him.
Selvi and Rita filed the suit in 2014 following the outcome of an inquest which found police responsible for the death through their omission.