The High Court recently ruled that MACC is only allowed to question suspects and witnesses during office hours ie about 8.00 am to 5pm. This is a landmark judgment and will definitely change how MACC offices throughout the country operate. Whilst on the one hand, it is good, especially in the wake of the death of the late Teoh Beng Hock who was grilled until late night before being released though found dead later on, I wonder if the judgment would create more problems than solving them.
Not questioning the Court’s judgment, MACC must now find new ways and methods to build its cases solidly for prosecution. Imagine this scenario – the suspect is brought into MACC headquarters for questioning. However, by 5pm (close of office for the day), questioning is still not finished yet. Does this mean the MACC must now release the suspect or witness and ask him to re-submit himself for questioning the next working day? If that were the case, the scenarios might happen:-
i. Suspect / Witness does turn up the next day for further questioning;
ii. Suspect / Witness (if reluctant witness) will destroy all evidence soonest possible to destroy the case;
iii. If it involves a third party who will also be prosecuted if there is a strong case, Suspect / Witness might be kidnapped or killed by them.
iv. Suspect / Witness runs away to evade questioning.
And MACC would not know anything about any of the above scenarios happening until the next working day when the suspect / witness fails to show up. By then it might just be too late to do anything to salvage the case.
And what happens if it were over the weekend? That is a whole 63 hours (Friday 5.00 pm to Monday 8.00am) or 2 1/2 days before they know if their suspect / witness would turn up or not. By then, the suspect / witness can be half way around the world or be hidden anywhere and the MACC would be totally too late to react and salvage the case.
MACC must now crack their heads to find way to overcome this obstacle. Some suggestions could include MACC providing a “safe-house” for the suspect / witness. Alternatively, MACC could provide “bodyguards” after office hours.
However amusing and funny this sounds, it is actually very serious. MACC must be allowed to conduct its investigations as objectively as possible. Nothing must hamper its investigations such as the scenarios listed above.
Though I am saddened by the late Teoh Beng Hock’s death, I hope MACC will find ways to ensure the integrity of their investigations and not be hampered by the after office hours ruling.
Ahmad Ikmal Ismail