Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Bail set at RM8,000 is excessive and unjust - and should never be used as a 'deterrent'

Noting the more that 30% of Malaysian workers, according to the government, earn RM700 or less as monthly wages, that is lower than the poverty rate of RM720.

Remember also that a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Bail is merely to ensure that one who has been charged attends court on their trial dates. 

There really is no need to even set any bail amount if a person charged will attend court - and, if they have a known home where he/she have been residing for a long time, have a job/works in the area, is not likely to abscond, bail could be zero or very nominal.Would they run away and not be there for their trial dates? Even so, there is always the possibility of issuing an arrest warrant if a person does not turn up for trial.

But RM8,000 per person is just too excessive. That is almost equivalent to about 1 years salary for many workers in Malaysia. This, I believe, it may be seen as being  'punitive' in nature and this should not be. 

In 1998 also, following the REFORMASI peaceful assembly many were arrested, and even remanded for several days - and then charged and imposed a much lower but high bail, and one of the reasons for extended remand and/or high bail was 'deterrence' (according to the submissions of some of the government lawyers when submissions were being made, and for the record, I was there representing the said suspects/accused)   - i.e. to scare other people into stopping exercising their right to peaceful assembly. Remanding persons for longer than necessary or imposing of high bails as means of deterring others is so wrong. 

The purpose of further remand is that time is required to complete the police investigation concerning allegations levied against the suspect - and, in the case where persons are caught participating in an 'illegal assembly' - handing out 'subversive materials', there really is no justification keeping them for more than 24 hours - unless the Malaysian police is highly inefficient. There is nothing much to investigate for these kind of offences that requires the suspects continued presence in detention, is there?

The purpose of bail is simply to secure the attendance of the accused on his/her trial or court dates - not ever to be used as a 'deterrence' to stop others from doing something, or even as a deterrent to prevent the particular accused person from repeating his actions that led to his/her being charged in court. 

So, why was it RM8,000 for bail? Independent courts and judiciary should always be seen as being independent - and that means not being seen as siding the existing government or others. Was the imposition of RM8,000 as bail done for some other reason other than just for ensuring attendance of the accused in court?

Unlike police bail, which involves no actual payment of money then and there - only a commitment of liability to a certain sum if the suspect does not turn up at the appointed date and time, court bail is very different. It requires the actual payment of the 'bail amount', and the surety will have no access to this money until after the trial. [RM8,000 X 24 = RM192,000, and this iis money sufficient to buy 4 - 5 low cost houses, Even a State Assembly Person's salary is about RM4,000]

Justly and reasonably, bail amounts should be nominal, if at all. For Malaysians, having a permanent address, employment, etc in a locality for some time, there really is no need for any bail amount. If they do not turn up in court, on the appointed date, then it is a different matter. Even, if bail is to be fixed, it should certainly be not more than RM500, and the personal income of the person need to be considered. For a worker, earning RM700, as a rule of thumb bail should not exceed 30% of the income. Of course for a CEO earning RM500,000-00 or a rich person, this amount could be higher. Court bail should also maybe be like police bail - where the surety commits to paying the sum of RM___ if the accused absconds or do not turn up in court for trial - no need for actual deposit of money in court.

The 24 PSM activist was involved in the movement for a free and fair elections in Malaysia - and allegedly were distributing flyers about the possible July 9 peaceful gatherings. Is there anything subversive about this? I do not think so.

KUALA LUMPUR, July 2 — Electoral reforms movement Bersih 2.0 has been declared illegal by the Home Ministry effective July 1 for causing “an atmosphere of unrest,” a week before its planned July 9 rally. _ Malaysian Insider, 2/7/2011, Hisham outlaws Bersih 2.0

Note, that they were charged for something that happened on 25/6/2011 - when our Home Minister only declared Bersih 2.0 illegal effective 1/7/2011.
They were alleged to have committed the act (of being involved in an illegal assembly dubbed Bersih 2.0) at 3.30pm on June 25 at the Sungai Dua Toll Plaza, along the North-South Expressway in Seberang Perai Utara. - Malaysiakini, 4/7/2011, Unlawful group: PSM activists charged
What is also disturbing is the fact that all this charging, etc is happening after the statement of the Yang Di Pertuan Agung?

Twenty-four Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) activists were jointly charged today under Section 48(1) of the Societies Act 1966, in connection with the Bersih 2.0 rally scheduled for July 9.

The 24 face an alternate charge under Section 43 of the same Act. The group pleaded not guilty to the charge and bail for each was set at RM8,000.

NONEThey were alleged to have committed the act (of being involved in an illegal assembly dubbed Bersih 2.0) at 3.30pm on June 25 at the Sungai Dua Toll Plaza, along the North-South Expressway in Seberang Perai Utara.

Judge Ikmal Hisham Mohd Tajuddin fixed July 21 as the mention date. The 24 include two minors and a woman in her 60s.

Section 48 of the Act states that anyone who acts on behalf of or represents an unlawful society by bringing with them 600 photocopies of pamphlets is liable to a maximum penalty of five years' jail, a fine of up to RM5,000, or both.

Section 43 of the Act stipulates that whoever is a member, attends meetings of or aids an unlawful society is liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to a fine not exceeding RM5,000 or both.

The group is also jointly charged under Section 29 (1) of the Internal Security Act for being in possession of subversive documents.

If convicted, the punishment includes a fine of less then RM10,000, a jail term of less than five years or both.

Bail on each of the charges was set at RM4,000.

Bid to reduce bail amount

The PSM lawyers tried to reduce the amount of bail set as the group comprised “poor people who are farmers, estate workers, students and unemployed”.

They also said that several detainees had health problems, including diabetes and high blood pressure, and could not afford such an expensive bail.

Deputy public prosecutor Suhaimi Ibrahim argued that the amount of bail was necessary to ensure that the accused would be present at the hearing.

The PSM activists, who have been remanded by police since June 26, were taken to the court in Butterworth at 1.40pm today.

Family members, who had been waiting outside the court building since 8am, shouted “Hidup Rakyat!” (Long live the people) when the Black Maria arrived with the activists inside.

psm arrest penang case court 040711The group comprises those still under detention after 59 PSM leaders and members were detained on July 25.

PSM secretary-general S Arutchelvan (left) said the entire episode of making the lawyers and families wait was “sheer cowardice”.

The PSM supporters had been told the detainees would be charged or released at 8am, 11am, 1pm and then at 3pm.

However, until 4pm, the lawyers were still waiting for the charge sheet.

Arutchelvan expressed concern that the banks would not be open to process bail if the charges were made at such a late hour.

“This is an act of bullying. Since we've been here, the police have been telling us that they are waiting for orders from Putrajaya,” he said.

“Clearly, this has nothing to do with the law.”

Meanwhile, Deputy CID chief Mohd Nasir Salleh informed the supporters and families that he was waiting for the DPP to arrive from Balik Pulau.

There was reportedly a massive traffic jam, he said, and told everyone to be patient. - Malaysiakini, 4/7/2011, Unlawful group: PSM activists charged

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