Lawyers tell why accused must be in court after arrest warrant against intel chief

Two lawyers say the Criminal Procedure Code states the need for an accused to be present in court from case mentions to trial hearings.

PETALING JAYA: Two criminal lawyers say it is important for an accused person to be present in court all the time when his or her case is being heard or mentioned.

Commenting on the failure of former Malaysian External Intelligence Organisation (MEIO) chief Hasanah Abd Hamid to appear in the High Court for the mention of her RM50 million criminal breach of trust case, they said the law that governed criminal proceedings in court – the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) – stated the need for an accused to be present in court from case mentions to trial hearings.

Lawyer Kitson Foong said the accused person who is present in court would know the updates of the case and get directions from the trial judge.

“If the judge wants to discuss issues like setting trial dates and handing over trial documents, it would be an exercise in futility without the accused being present,” he said, pointing out that case mentions under Section 172B of CPC were to enable the court to provide directions to the accused’s forthcoming trial.

Yesterday, Hasanah failed to appear in court, resulting in High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah issuing a warrant of arrest for her.

Her lawyer Shaharudin Ali had argued that there was no need for Hasanah to be present as it was an administrative matter and “not a hearing”.

Foong said if an accused person wanted to be excused from attending case mentions, he or she could do so by applying through counsel before the case came up for mention.

“The judge can exercise his or her discretion in dispensing the accused’s attendance, provided the application was made at the previous mention date or through writing. However, such applications should not be taken for granted,” he said.

Lawyer Rafique Rashid Ali said lawyers would advise their clients to attend court whenever their case came up.

“If our accused clients cannot make it because they are on medical leave or for other reasons, the bailor must be present,” he said, adding that in Hasanah’s case, neither she nor her bailors were present in court.

Therefore, Rafique added, the trial judge was right to issue a warrant of arrest.

“Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat had said during her appointment ceremony that all cases should be given equal treatment. So, what is so special about this case (Hasanah’s)?” he asked.

Prior to Hasanah’s case, the High Court had in 2017 issued an arrest warrant for former Batu MP Tian Chua for failing to show up for his sedition appeal mention.

The warrant was set aside a day later after the court was satisfied with Tian Chua’s explanation as to why he was not present.