Understanding the Malaysian Criminal Justice Process
This article aims to demystify the various stages and terms associated with the Malaysian criminal justice process. We will explore the stages of the case; DNAA; and the criminal trial process.
From Suspect to Accused in a Criminal Trial
One common area of confusion arises when understanding the status of a person implicated in a criminal matter. Initially, when investigations commence, if the police identify an individual as potentially being involved in the commission of an offense, they label this individual a ‘suspect’. This suspect, if taken to the police station, can be questioned and investigated. Upon formal charges in court, the status of this individual changes. They are no longer a suspect but become an ‘accused person’. This accused is then presented with the charges, detailing the specifics of their alleged offense. At this point, they must decide whether to plead guilty or not guilty to the charges leveled at them by the prosecution.
The Criminal Trial Process
If the accused pleads not guilty to the charges brought by the prosecution, the criminal trial process begins. However, it’s essential to remember that the person remains innocent until proven guilty. The trial process encompasses various stages:
- Prosecution’s Case: This is where the prosecution presents their witnesses and evidence, aiming to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused committed the crime. If the prosecution fails to make a compelling case, the judge may acquit the accused. If, however, they establish a prima facie case, then the defence is called upon.
- Role of the Defence: Contrary to some beliefs, the defence lawyers don’t merely wait for their turn. They actively counter the prosecution’s case by introducing elements of their defence through the prosecution’s witnesses. For instance, if an alibi is part of the defence, it must be presented to the prosecution witnesses for them to confirm or refute. This proactive approach ensures that no surprises arise later in the trial.
- Defence’s Case: If the defence is called, they present their evidence and witnesses to counter the charges against the accused. The judge then evaluates all the evidence before making a decision.
Discharge Not Amounting to Acquittal (DNAA)
Recently, a particular case raised eyebrows in the legal community. In this unnamed case, the defence was called after a prima facie case was established. Surprisingly, the prosecution then requested a temporary cessation of proceedings, opting for a ‘discharge not amounting to acquittal’ or DNAA.
Many believe that a DNAA should ideally be invoked during the prosecution stage, especially if the prosecution cannot procure necessary evidence or key witnesses. However, in this particular case, the prosecution had already presented all their witnesses and evidence. Therefore, once the defence stage was reached, it seemed counterintuitive to request a DNAA. The lingering question remains: if the case were to be reopened, would the prosecution have any witnesses left to call?
Prosecution’s Prerogative During A Criminal Trial
It’s worth noting that the decision to proceed or drop the prosecution rests with the prosecution at any stage of the case. That includes after establishing a prima facie case, and the defence having been called.
Given the details of the case (i.e. the prosecution had already presented its case), it might have been more appropriate to drop the charges rather than seeking a DNAA.
Thank you for reading our article about the Malaysian criminal justice process. We hope that it has been useful.
This article was prepared to provide general information to members of the public. Please do not consider it as legal advice. Please consult with a lawyer before making any decision, based on this article.