Lawyers call for criminal cases to resume with restrictions

Hearings of criminal cases such as the 1MDB trial of Najib Razak have been postponed because of the movement control order restrictions on gatherings.

KUALA LUMPUR: In the wake of a decision to allow virtual hearings of civil cases in the higher courts, two lawyers have called for criminal proceedings to be allowed to resume, but with restricted access.

Prominent lawyer N. Sivananthan said hearings of criminal cases could be held by only allowing relevant parties such as the judge, prosecutor, lawyers and the accused person to be present.

“Criminal courts should be allowed to deal with matters involving remand, fresh charges, bail and revision applications, but also for matters involving appeals and miscellaneous applications,” he said. “There is no need for anyone apart from the prosecutor, lawyer and the accused person to be present. No witness need be present.”

Case management before the registrar and the judge could be done online.

He said some criminal cases were being postponed for long periods and the restrictions of the movement control order had caused tremendous injustice to accused persons (for non-bailable offences) and those detained under preventive laws.

“All these people have no remedy available to them,” he said.

Another lawyer, Nor Zabetha Muhammad Nor, said the authorities may consider alternatives such as setting up court in prisons, which would reduce the number of detainees being brought to court.

Most criminal cases including high profile trials have been postponed such as the 1Malaysia Development Berhad trial of former prime minister Najib Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor as well as the trial of former deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi on corruption charges.

Last Friday, the judiciary said parties in civil cases can apply for online trials at the Federal Court and Court of Appeal and the High Court of Malaya.

Fake or not? Check our quick fake news buster here.