More in opinion


Law For Everyone

Thursday, 12 July 2018 | MYT 12:00 AM

About police action and inaction

THE role of the police is, of course, to maintain law and order within the community. But from time to time, people who have made police reports complain that no action has been taken against the alleged offenders.

On the other hand, individuals against whom police reports have been lodged sometimes lament about the very quick follow-up action. It is not wrong to say that this happens and has been happening for quite sometime.

Why there is this difference in approach is something that is best left to the readers to reflect upon. Each case has its own surrounding circumstances that lead to either prompt action or apparent indifference.

Another aspect that people often talk about is when the police are seen to have acted improperly.

Of course, whatever others may say, the police spokesman will say they are acting according to the law and within the law.

On the face of it, this appears to be a satisfactory explanation. But this misses the point that those who complain or express their concerns are not saying that the police have acted contrary to the law. What they are saying is that the police have not acted in a proper manner.

It would be a fallacy to equate acting according to the law with acting in a proper manner. There is a difference.

This brings me to what happened to Siti Kasim last month. According to information in the public domain, the lawyer activist was arrested in an office (presumably her office) in the night, based on a police report made against her. She spent a night in police custody.

A police report serves as a First Information Report. Its purpose is to trigger investigation. Important decisions affecting the liberty of an individual cannot be taken based only on the content of a police report. This is because such a report merely contains one person’s accusations and grievances against another.

To so act would be premature because given the nature of such a report, there is always the possibility that the complainant has bias and/or ill will towards another.

I am inclined to feel that the only basis for such action is when the content of the report is considered to be true.

This brings me to the aspect of acting properly or otherwise. You may ask, if the police are acting according to the law or within the law, how can it be improper?

This requires an understanding of the word “law”, of which there are two aspects.

One is the substantive law, which in the Siti Kasim case would relate to the alleged kidnapping. However, the word “law” also includes subsidiary aspects of the law.

So what is proper? Going by the ordinary meaning of the word, it means right, appropriate, correct, according to the rules, or in a satisfactory manner. It can also mean with dignity proper to all individuals created by God.

Quite apart from all this, I would say proper would mean that the police are satisfied that a reasonable complaint has been made, credible information has been received, reasonable suspicion exists, or an offence is being committed.

The person concerned was a solicitor. I am by no means suggesting that solicitors enjoy any kind of immunity. But by the same token, they are also entitled to be treated in a decent manner as ordinary individuals.

In this case, again, based on the information available in the public domain, the “kidnap victim” was not being hidden or confined anywhere. She was accessible in the house of the lawyer and this must have been disclosed to the police. They were in a position to question the “victim”, who is an adult.

It also appears that some medical issues were involved, which were known to the police. So the proper thing to do would have been to have the “victim” examined by a medical personnel before proceeding further, rather than arresting the “offender” and detaining her in the lockup.

It appeared that the police acted with unholy haste. If the police had any credible information with regard to the complaint and there were reasonable grounds to believe that there was an offence, they should have made it known.

Even if the police say they need not do this, or it is not their policy to do this, they could have disclosed this to the magistrate when seeking a remand order, which was not issued much to the magistrate’s credit, wisdom and regard for justice.

Having considered the different aspects of the case as to what happened, who was involved and what did not happen, it would be fair for a reasonable person to conclude that the manner in which the police acted was not proper.

Any comments or suggestions for points of discussion can be sent to The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.