Thursday, September 06, 2007

The long wait for justice: 1,000 behind bars and no appeal option

The long wait for justice: 1,000 behind bars and no appeal option

Thursday, 06 September 2007, 08:50am

The long wait for justice: 1,000 behind bars and no appeal option©New Straits Times
by V. Anbalagan

More than 1,000 convicted prisoners in jail cannot appeal against their sentences as Sessions Court judges and magistrates have not submitted written judgments.

Their failure to do so over the past two to eight years had resulted in the High Court being unable to hear appeals in the cases.

Legal sources said the cases included offences such as rape and armed robbery.

Similarly, judges in the High Court and Court of Appeal have also not provided judgments in at least 100 cases that carried the death penalty.

Some of the prisoners convicted by the trial judges are languishing on Death Row.

In criminal appeals, the appeal court will not hear cases unless there are written grounds of judgment.

Chief Justice Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim, when told of the matter, promised to investigate it.

"I am looking into the matter to see what type of action can be taken," said the top judge after attending the promotion and elevation ceremony of judges to the High Court and Federal Court.

He said any action permitted by the law and the Federal Constitution could be taken against judges, Sessions Court judges and magistrates for not writing judgments.

"But I will not tell you (the form of action ). This is because it is governed by the Official Secrets Act," he said, adding that sacking could not be ruled out if the circumstances warranted it.

He said lawyers and the prosecution would have to write to the trial judge and ask for grounds of decision if they wished to appeal.

"We have procedures. We will have no difficulty if they are complied with," he said, adding that there were circulars which stated the period for the submission of written grounds to facilitate appeals.

Ahmad Fairuz declined to comment on the issue of nine prisoners on Death Row who had filed action in the Court of Appeal to either set them free or substitute their death penalties with a prison term because the trial judges did not write judgments.

"Well, it is sub-judice and I cannot comment," he said.

On another matter, Ahmad Fairuz said he had written to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on the issue of a senior judge alleged to have failed to write grounds of judgments in over 30 cases.

"But I cannot reveal the contents," he said.

Abdullah had last week demanded an explanation on the matter which had been highlighted by the New Straits Times.

He made the statement after Bukit Gelugor MP and DAP chairman Karpal Singh named Federal Court judge Datuk Hashim Yusoff in the Dewan Rakyat as the judge who had not written judgments.

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