What is hoped to be a practical explanation of what is one’s right to lodge a complaint or information with the police, and in doing closely examining sections 107 and 107A of the Criminal Procedure Code by a certain chap named Fahri Azzat who has not lodged a police report recently.
Under the law, you have the right to lodge a police report. But as is common in Malaysia, the police have little respect for the law they purport to protect, defend and enforce. In the past, the police would actually dissuade you if not prohibit you from filing a police report some times. One could not get their schedule as to when those times struck and so that made it difficult and frustrating. They will tell you it’s not required, or there’s no point because they will not investigate, or give you excuses to send you from station to station until you get so frustrated you give up, or just flat out refuse to take down your complaint. You may have read of such experiences from the media or even experienced such instances yourself. It happens. It’s true. They could however tell you to go to the Magistrate in cases involving a non-seizable offence.
(Note: A seizable offence is one where the police can arrest you without a warrant; and for non-seizable offences they need a warrant. If you want to see what offences are seizable and which are not, please refer to the Third Column of the First Schedule CPC)
It got to the point that even the Executive realized this and proposed legislation to the Legislature to spell out in the clearest terms the police’s duty when it came to receiving a complaint from the public. And it was passed. The recently amended provisions to the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) make this manifestly clear.
Our first port of call would be section 107 CPC which was heavily amended to provide in respect of receiving complaints from the public. This provision requires the police to put into writing all oral complaints received from the complainant or ‘informant’ into a written statement which is then verified by the complainant/informant. This complaint must be recorded in a book along with the date and time it was made. And if it is reduced to writing or there is a written statement then it must be signed by the complainant/informant.
What you should be aware of is that you can therefore prepare a statement before going to the police station – type it out on your computer, print it out. You can sign it but it’s better to do that before the police officer you lodge the complaint with. It is also advisable to make a copy of all the relevant documents, media, etc. for the police if you feel it would assist in the investigation of your complaint or in verifying your information.
The police must also receive your complaint even if it is not at the police station and any complaint taken outside of it shall be deemed as being received in a police station. So the police cannot tell you that they cannot take your statement because you are not at the police station. In law it is their duty to receive a complaint anywhere they receive it. If they still refuse, remind them that they are in breach as their duty as a police officer. Any complaint received outside the police station must as soon as possible must record the name and address of the informant, the date and time of the complaint and convey that information to an officer in charge of a police station (OCP) or any police officer responsible for receiving complaints. That information has to be put into writing, recorded in the log book and signed by the complainant/informant.
Subsection (4) of the provision is why I say that the police regularly disobey the law. This is what it provides:
A police officer shall be duty bound to receive any information in relation to any offence committed anywhere in Malaysia.
You would not have to make such a provision if they did their job. I mean to have one’s most petty job requirements to be a police has to be crystallized and realized in a statute. And if you think I’m reading too much into this then consider section 114 of the CPC which provides as follows:
No police officer or other person shall prevent or discourage any person from making in the course of a police investigation … any statement which he may be disposed to make of his own free will.
So section 114 CPC is applicable to police officers as well (not just other citizens)! This is indicative of how widespread the refusal by the police to not receive complaints and that they, in flagrant breach of their duties, discourage citizens from lodging a police report. That is the extent of the police’s recalcitrance that its own political masters saw fit to restrain and demand that they carry out their duties through a statute.
Now a lot of you also no doubt think that lodging a complaint with the police is a waste of time because nothing meaningful happens after that. I know the feeling. When my office was ransacked twice two years ago, the police just dusted the place a bit and questioned all of us instead of the neighbours. When I asked what I could expect they said that it was difficult to say because they didn’t know who robbed us! Wow. Or when you lose a car and they tell you that it happens all the time and that because the thieves and syndicates are so good all they can do is assure you that your vehicle is probably half way to Thailand by then. And when you call the investigating officer they avoid your calls and never tell you the status of investigations of your complaint.
Because of this, section 107A was enacted. This provision empowers citizens and complainants regarding finding out the status of investigations regarding their complaint? This provision gives you the right to request for ‘a report on the status of the investigation of the offence complained of’ from the OCP where you made your complaint. The OCP is required to inform you the status of the report within 2 weeks of receiving the request. However this right to status has three conditions to be fulfilled. Firstly, your complaint must involve a seizable offence only. So you have no right to inquire for the status of your complaint involving non-seizable offences. Secondly, you can only inquire only after 4 weeks of your complaint being lodged. Finally, if informing you of the status would in some way ‘adversely affect’ the investigation into the offence or its prosecution in court. I hope that the last exception is sparingly used.
If the OCP doesn’t respond within that time, you can write directly to the Attorney General’s Chambers of that failure. Make sure to include the Investigating Officer’s name, phone number if you have it, your police report and copies of any accompanying documents. The AG’s Chambers can direct the OCP to give it a status report of the investigation of the complaint or information so far, and to either have a copy sent to you or direct the OCPD to give you a copy of the same.
There are no further provisions if the AG’s Chambers fails to carry out the same, so that appears to be your last stop. In summary, where the OCP fails to revert to you in 4 weeks, you should report that failure to the AG’s Chambers. Thereafter, you should direct further inquiries to the AG’s Chambers in respect of your complaint/information until they inform you to do otherwise.