Justice hurried is justice buried, say lawyers

Najib Razak brought four issues up to the Federal Court before his SRC International corruption trial started.

PETALING JAYA: It is the right of an accused person to raise and exhaust legal issues up to the Federal Court before the trial begins, a lawyer said.

However, Jeyaseelan Anthony said that from his observation, only “public figures” were able to “stretch” the prosecution.

“They have better access to justice due to availability of resources and a prolific legal team to help raise interlocutory issues before trial commences but this is their right,” he told FMT.

Anthony was responding to former prime minister Najib Razak’s insistence during a recent interview with FMT that he is not trying to delay his trial on criminal charges.

Najib is facing seven charges of corruption, abuse of power and money laundering amounting to RM42 million in relation to SRC International Sdn Bhd.

For this case, he brought up four issues which were finally decided by the Federal Court on April 10.

The bench chaired by the then chief justice Richard Malanjum ruled that Najib is not entitled to obtain additional documents to prepare for his trial.

This ruling only affirmed a 2010 decision by the apex court when former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim was charged with sodomising his former aide, Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan.

Malanjum threw out Najib’s appeal for a gag order to prevent the media and members of the public from discussing his case.

He also dismissed a challenge to the attorney-general’s withdrawal of his certificate to transfer the case from the Sessions Court to the High Court.

The court also allowed the government’s appeal that the defence is not privileged to inspect the appointment letter of ad hoc prosecutor Sulaiman Abdullah.

Anthony said the three matters were now legal precedents and a guide to the lower court judges, lawyers and the prosecution.

“It is inaccurate to claim Najib’s action to raise interlocutory matters is to stall his SRC trial,” he said.

Lawyer A Srimurugan said public perception would be against the government if Najib’s trials were rushed.

“As the saying goes, justice hurried will be justice buried,” he said.

Srimurugan said the legal position in criminal proceedings had also changed as generally, the accused could not raise any legal or constitutional issues once the trial had started.

“This is why some of the accused will raise many issues which inevitably take time to dispose,” he said.

He said the prosecution could also raise objections before the trial or appellate courts if the applications were frivolous.

Srimurugan said Anwar had also contributed to the development of criminal and constitutional laws from the time he was charged with sexual misconduct in 1999.

“He lost almost all the cases that ended in the Federal Court which were regarded as bad precedents,” he said.

The same also applied to Lim Guan Eng in his corruption case where the apex court early last year made a questionable ruling that an accused is obliged to provide his defence before trial started.