Lawyers for Liberty views with extreme concern the recent decision by the police to use the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (PROCA) as a measure to deal with the escalation of serious and organised crimes.
PROCA allows for the detention of any persons for police investigation up to a maximum of 72 days under remand orders from the Magistrate.
We find such a long period of detention excessive and unnecessary and is effectively detention without trial.
At the end of the remand period and upon a non-judicial inquiry, the suspects involved in organised crimes and secret societies and persistent offenders can be registered and subjected to serious restrictions including police supervision up to five years which can be renewed indefinitely.
However, as past experiences have shown, such vast powers of remand will inevitably lead to abuse of power, as in most cases, the Magistrate will merely “rubber stamp” the police application for remand.
Consequently, these long remands have led to serious abuse of power including extortion, assault, torture and deaths in custody. We find this totally unacceptable.
Further, the inquiry process will be done by the Home Ministry which will appoint the Inquiry Officers and relevant staff. It is also unclear as to how or where the inquiry will be held and whether the suspects have a right to appoint legal counsel to participate.
The inquiry with the vague and vast powers is reminiscent of the infamously incompetent Advisory Board which had “reviewed” detention under the Internal Security Act and Emergency Ordinance but in most cases merely agreed with the Home Ministry.
In other words, this inquiry is not an impartial and transparent judicial trial but an administrative penal process that offends basic rules of natural justice, evidential requirement and due process.
For serious organised crimes, we urge the government and police to refer to modern and progressive measures taken by other countries that have nonetheless still afforded respect for human rights.
The United Kingdom’s Serious Organised Crimes Agency (SOCA) would be a good model to emulate.
SOCA was set up to tackle organised crime in a far more effective and modern manner. The idea is to use both traditional and sophisticated methods by using combined powers of various agencies – the police, customs, immigration and other enforcement authorities. This include using first class intelligence and other methods to find out and hit such organised criminals where it hurts most, i.e. by going after their properties, businesses, bank accounts and financial resources.
For everything else, the existing Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) and various other laws are more than sufficient, if used properly, to arrest, detain, investigate and prosecute criminals. Under the CPC, the police are allowed to detain a person for a maximum of 14 days which is still among the longest in the world.
We therefore urge the police to stop using such regressive and archaic methods such as PROCA.
Instead, the police should make a serious effort to modernise and reprioritise their focus – from public order, internal security and intelligence work that protect the government politically – to real policing, crime prevention and law enforcement.
Issued by:
Eric Paulsen
Co-founder & Adviser
Lawyers for Liberty