Need for IPCMC to eliminate 'horror custody', says judge
First Published: 4:55pm, Jul 09, 2013
Last Updated: 4:55pm, Jul 09, 2013
KUALA LUMPUR (July 9): There is an urgent need to seriously consider setting up an Independent Police Complaint and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) to investigate claims of disciplinary offences by the police to eliminate accusations of "horror stories" in lockups, said a High Court Judge Datuk V.T. Singham.
Singham, who retired recently, said it was time to set up the IPCMC, as recommended by the Royal Commission for Police Reforms, as soon as possible.
The reason being that the public and family members of victims involved had little confidence in investigations carried out by the police, he added.
In his 128-page written judgment which was made available today, Singham said the recommendation for police reforms should not be kept in 'cold storage' so that the time and money spent on the setting up of the royal commission and production of the report would bring greater good for the society.
"The power to investigate allegations against police officers, particularly custodial torture or death, must be exercised with great care, caution and circumspection...." he said in the judgment of a suit filed by a mother of suspected car thief, A. Kugan, who died in police custody in January 2009.
Singham said the setting up of IPCMC was necessary due to the sharp rise in custodial violence, torture and death in police custody so that it could be incorporated as a law.
He said there was also the justification for urgency to protect the interests of arrested persons who were taken into police custody.
Police officers, being custodians of the law and public safety, should protect detainees and not to abuse their statutory powers, he added.
He said if there was an abuse of power by a certain police officer and if his unlawful act was not checked and the law failed to apprehend them, the belief by such police officers that no harm could be caused to them by any authority would forever be reinforced.
This could lead to the people to lose faith in the prevailing law, as well as the enforcing machinery, he added. "Custodial death should not become the rule of the day. It is heinous crime perpetrated by the custodians of law. If custodians of the law themselves indulged in committing such crimes then no part of the society is safe and secured," he said.
He said if police officers became law breakers, it would breed contempt of law and encourage lawlessness.
"In fact, it is desirable, as well as in the interest of justice, to entrust the entire investigations whenever there are incidents of custodial deaths or torture in police custody or other abuse of powers by police officers to an independent agency," he added.
On June 26, Kugan's mother, N.Indra, won her negligence suit against the government and the police after the court allowed her claim.
Singham awarded her RM851,700 in damages for assault and battery, false imprisonment, misfeasance, pain and suffering after finding that the plaintiff had established her claim against the defendants.
The court also ordered Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar (who was the Selangor police chief then), former police constable V. Navindran, former Subang Jaya police chief ACP Zainal Rashid Abu Bakar (now deceased), the Inspector-General of Police and the government to pay RM50,000 for costs.
In his ruling, Singham said he found several glaring material contradictions between Khalid and other defence witnesses in respect of the investigation into the death of the deceased.
He also held that Khalid was liable for misfeasance in the case.
On Jan 13 last year, Indra filed the suit seeking RM100 million in damages and named Khalid, Navindran, Zainal Rashid, the Inspector-General of Police and the government as first to fifth defendants, respectively.
In her statement of claim, Indra alleged that the defendants had failed to ensure the safety, health and welfare of her son while he was under police detention from Jan 14 to 20, 2009.
Kugan, 22, was detained as a luxury car theft suspect. He was arrested in Puchong on Jan 14, 2009, and held overnight at the Puchong Jaya police lock-up before police obtained a remand order.
He was taken to the Taipan USJ, Subang Jaya police station two days later for questioning and was found dead four days after that.
Navindran was the only one held responsible for Kugan's death. Last year, he was convicted and sentenced to three years' jail.