Lawyers split on how to deal with MCO violators

Police say they are prepared to enforce the movement control order more strictly as the partial lockdown enters its third week.

PETALING JAYA: Lawyers are split on whether the police should arrest those who breach the movement control order (MCO), as hundreds are rounded up and charged in court.

Lawyer Alliff Benjamin Suhaimi said police action was needed as a deterrent to others, in order to ensure the success of the MCO which was invoked last month under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act.

Under the act, an offender can be imprisoned for up to two years, fined or both. Repeat offenders could be slapped with a fine, jail not exceeding five years, or both.

“Police action will create a fear in others to follow the law and practise social distancing,” he told FMT.

There have been calls by some for offenders to be compounded instead of arrested and charged.

But Benjamin said people were likely to violate the MCO if given the opportunity to be compounded.

“Even those who are issued traffic summonses for speeding do not pay up,” he added.

Lawyer Chan Yen Hui, however, said there was no reason for police to detain suspects beyond 24 hours.

“Police can complete their investigation as they do not need more time to collect evidence. A remand application to extend detention before a magistrate is not necessary,” she added.

She said police bail could be offered to suspects, who could then be asked to return to court when the prosecution is ready to charge them.

“Putting a large number of suspects in a lock-up, though legal, would defeat the purpose of the MCO, especially social distancing,” she said.

Benjamin meanwhile said every individual must do his part in the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This is the time for everyone to work together for the common good rather than having a capitalist mindset of self-preservation.

“As individuals, it is important for us to be disciplined, to practise good hygiene and regulate social interaction in view of the increasing number of infections and deaths,” he added.

Benjamin welcomed further restrictions under the second phase of the MCO, including limiting travel to purchase food and daily necessities to a 10km radius, and a requirement to travel alone.