PETALING JAYA: Police should allow suspects to contact their family members to obtain legal representation during remand proceedings, a lawyer said today.
Muhammad Rafique Rashid Ali said those under police custody had a legal and constitutional right to have access to justice even during the lockdown period.
“They have a right to be represented by counsel of their choice when a magistrate decides whether or not he should give police remand to complete their investigation,” said Rafique, who is co-chair of the Bar Council’s criminal law committee.
The lawyer said suspects would have access to justice only if family members were notified so that they could get a lawyer of their choice.
Rafique said this in response to a statement by minister in the prime minister’s department (parliament and law) Takiyuddin Hassan that lawyers were allowed to be present in court to represent clients for remand proceedings.
Takiyuddin said counsel could be present when accused persons were charged with offences during the total lockdown which is effective today until June 14.
He said they would also be allowed to go to court for other miscellaneous criminal applications.
Takiyuddin said the National Security Council at its meeting yesterday took into consideration the need for lawyers’ presence in court.
“The government agreed to grant exemptions to lawyers for these purposes, and permission can be obtained from the nearest police station,” he said.
Yesterday, lawyers expressed concern that they would be unable to represent clients due to the 10km restriction imposed to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
Lawyer Kitson Foong said the minister’s statement would enable lawyers to cross district and state boundaries to represent clients.
“I do hope we will not encounter much problem in obtaining police permits,” he said, adding that the role of counsel at the initial stage of criminal proceedings could be reduced if suspects were given police bail.
He suggested that for petty criminal cases, police could record statements and ask the suspects to return after the lockdown period.
“In this way, overcrowding in lock-ups can be reduced,” he said.
Lawyer KA Ramu said counsel under the National Legal Aid Foundation should not be required to obtain a police permit to go to court.
“The state Bar committees would have rostered this group of lawyers to be stationed in specific lower courts to assist the poor and needy persons,” he said.