PETALING JAYA: The right to legal representation while in police custody is as important as ensuring that the individuals and lawyers have a safe environment in which to meet.

Malaysian Bar secretary Tony Woon said the initiative to have lawyers meet clients, who are in police custody, on the ground floor of police stations could improve the safety of all parties, but stressed that there must not be any hindrance in the meeting.

“We hope the directive will translate into full cooperation by the police and not be mere rhetoric,” he said, adding that meetings with clients were held in a “haphazard” way prior to the move.

Woon added that basic safety should be adhered to such as having a police officer standing guard outside the room where the meeting was held.

“Privacy should also be allowed when needed,” he said yesterday.

Woon was responding to news reports that Deputy Inspector-General of Police Datuk Khalid Abu Bakar had issued a directive requiring all lawyers to meet clients in police custody in a room on the ground floor of police stations to avoid “untoward incidents”.

The directive was issued following a report lodged by lawyer Fadiah Nadwa Fikri, who alleged that she was intimidated by a police officer while meeting her client at the second floor of the Gombak district headquarters.

Lawyer Amer Hamzah Arshad said it was required under Section 28A (7) of the Criminal Procedure Code for the police officer to provide reasonable facilities for the consultation between persons under arrest and their lawyers.

“If we follow this law provision, then there is actually no need for the directive,” he said.

Saturday May 21, 2011, The Star