On 14th December last year, the UK Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine, announced
a wide ranging, independent review of the criminal courts by Lord
Justice Auld, a senior Lord Justice in the Court of Appeal, to review how
the criminal courts work at every level by the end of 2000 with the following
terms of reference:
In announcing the review into British criminal justice, Lord Irving said his Government's aim was "to provide criminal courts which are - and are seen to be - modern and in touch with the communities they serve; efficient; fair and responsive to the needs of all their users; co-operative in their relations with other criminal justice agencies; and with modern and effective case management to remove unnecessary delays from the system"
Lord Irving acknowledged that "the process of reforming the system, like the system itself, must not draw exclusively on its own experience and viewpoints" and that "a small number of expert consultees" with broad-based experience - not all drawn from the criminal justice system - would assist Lord Auld by giving informal advice in developing radical improvement to the system of criminal justice in the United Kingdom.
In Malaysia, there has recently been recurrent public uproars over the failings of the criminal justice system to deliver justice fairly and reforms in the criminal justice system is urgently needed before public confidence in the system of justice and the rule of law suffers irreparable damage.
Never before in the 43-year history of the nation have there been more Malaysians who are concerned about the administration of justice in the country - that the maxim "Justice must not only be done, but seen to be done" is being extensively ignored.
The most recent controversy is the two-month jail sentence and RM2,000 fine imposed on the former Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Rahim Noor after his charge of attempting to cause grievous hurt to the former Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim at the Bukit Aman police lock-up was inexplicably reduced to a lesser one of causing hurt.
DAP calls for a commission of inquiry into the workings of the criminal courts to propose criminal justice reforms to ensure they deliver justice fairly , focussing in particular on increasing public concerns at selective justice and selective prosecution in the country.
The Attorney-General, Tan Sri Mohtar Abdullah should appear before the Commission of Inquiry on criminal justice reforms to justify his numerous highly-controversial and questionable decisions in the exercise of his discretionary powers under Article 145(3) of the Constitution to "institute, conduct or discontinue any proceedings for an offence", particularly involving high-profiled personalities in government and opposition, such as Cabinet Ministers Tun Daim Zainuddin and Datuk Rafidah Aziz, former Malacca Chief Minister, Tan Sri Rahim Tamby Cik, former Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Rahim Noor, former Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and former DAP Member of Parliament for Kota Melaka, Lim Guan Eng.
A major challenge for criminal justice reforms is how to subject the Attorney-General to meaningful accountability for his discretionary prosecutorial powers under the Constitution, particularly in cases of selective prosecution, as he is presently acting as above the law without any proper and meaningful check or accountability even by Parliament.
Before the system of criminal justice reached its present crisis stage, the Minister in the Prime Ministerís Department, Datuk Dr. Rais Yatim had produced a doctoral thesis about the serious erosion of the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and the integrity of the system of criminal justice.
The time has come for decisive steps to be taken for the restoration of public confidence in the system of criminal justice and the rule of law, which is not for the sake of any one person or partisan group but for the good of the country.