PUTRAJAYA – The fight against child sexual predators and paedophiles is set to gain more muscle, with every state to have a special court to hear such crimes against children by the end of next year.
All 12 branches of the Special Criminal Court on sexual crimes against children will be set up by the end of 2018, said Chief Registrar of the Federal Court of Malaysia Datuk Seri Latifah Mohd Tahar (pic).
Currently, there is only one such court in Malaysia – at the Palace of Justice here.
Lauding the expansion, Latifah said there has been a rise in the humber of charges filed at the special court since it started operations six months ago.
To top it off, new standard operating procedures (SOPs) on child protection and handling of such sexual offences will be launched on Wednesday by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said.
The SOPs will include support services for the child and the role of child counsellors in helping victims to deal with their trauma.
“Currently, a child psychologist from the Social Welfare Department is asked to be present during proceedings only upon the court’s request.
“More support systems for the child should be in place from day one until the end of their case,” Latifah said, adding that such services included transporting the child to court and home.
Believed to be the first of its kind in South-East Asia, the special court was launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on June 22.
Each branch of the court will come with a special child witness room, equipped with a video-link system to enable the child to give evidence in a safe and comfortable setting without having to face the perpetrator.
Known as the Permata Room, the facility is sponsored by the Permata Foundation, of which the Prime Minister’s wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor is patron.
With the additional courts, Latifah said judges with 15 years’ experience and well-versed in criminal law have been identified to be assigned to preside over the courts.
“Training will also be given to judges on how to handle child sex crimes,” she said.
Since it has been up and running, Latifah said the court has seen a smooth delivery of justice, with most child victims being able to cooperate and testify without problems.
“There were a few cases where victims were pressured by their family to withdraw their complaints, especially when the alleged perpetrator was a family member.
“At the end of the day, it is up to the prosecution,” she added.
On offences committed online, like child grooming, Latifah said this new area of the law could have potential challenges.
“The chain of evidence and exhibits has to be fully intact. If there is a break in this chain, it will be difficult to prove the crime,” Latifah said.
She added that investigation officers, lawyers and judges must have an understanding of how the web works to handle such cases. – The Star Online