Stop obstructing lawyers, Bar tells police

Malaysian Bar president George Varughese says a lawyer must be allowed to advance a client’s rights without impediment at all times. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Bar has demanded that police refrain from any action which is likely to harass or obstruct lawyers from performing their duties in the wake of lawyer Siti Kasim’s recent arrest.

Its president George Varughese said the police needed to recognise and respect the role and responsibilities of lawyers.

He also said the power to investigate and arrest must not be used to intimidate suspects while application for remand orders must be used sparingly and only when necessary.

“At the outset, the police should have conducted thorough investigations in respect of any police report lodged against Siti Kasim rather than simply proceeding to effect an arrest,” he said.

“This failure to act in an impartial manner undermines the credibility of the police force and further erodes their neutrality, integrity and professionalism.

“The conduct of the police in this case will invariably give rise to an irresistible inference in the public’s mind that the police are once again abusing their power,” he said in a statement today.

He said powers to arrest were not meant to be used to begin gathering evidence against an individual.

Investigative powers should not be used to arrest or detain individuals, or to seek remand orders and should only be for the purposes of gathering evidence, he said.

The Magistrate’s Court had yesterday dismissed the remand application against Siti over allegations that she had obstructed police officers from discharging their duties.

She had been arrested at the Kajang police headquarters earlier in the morning, hours after officers broke into her home following a report accusing her of forcibly detaining a woman, who was her client.

The client, in her 20s, was picked up by police after a complaint lodged by her mother claiming that her daughter’s faith was in question.

A video posted on Facebook shows Siti at the police station, demanding that her client be freed. A woman was also heard from another room, denying that she had been kidnapped by Siti.

“It is pertinent to note that Siti Kasim was at all material times discharging her duties as an advocate and solicitor, as instructed and appointed by her client,” Varughese said.

“A lawyer must at all times be allowed to advance a client’s rights without obstruction or impediment, or fear of prosecution for carrying out his or her duties as an officer of the Court.

“Any unwarranted interference with the discharge of such duties is a serious violation of the independence of the legal profession, and an affront to the administration of justice,” he said.

Varughese said the Bar had advocated the setting up of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) to address such alleged abuses and high-handedness by the police.