Those charged were acquitted, not because of no evidence, but because of mishandling of evidence or failure to prosecute properly.
NEWS UPDATE Intelligence, competence, and quality evidence delivers the blows in Court and wins suits rather than the cult of evidence. That's the advice that came from Richard Malanjum, Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak, during a Judiciary-led ?Environmental Workshop on Capacity Building for Prosecution Officers and Investigation Officers" during the weekend in Kota Kinabalu for the Sabah Working Group on the Environment.
?In a lot of cases previously, those charged were acquitted, not because of no evidence, but because of mishandling of evidence or failure to prosecute properly," said Malanjum. ?The Special Environmental Court set up last January will flip-flop if poor investigation and poor prosecution continue."
?That's why we are here, to train Investigation Officers and Prosecution Officers so that they know how to better handle cases."
Malanjum advised Investigation Officers that they need to know how to handle evidence, how to collect evidence. ?That's important."
The Chief Judge also had some advice for Prosecution Officers. The Court, he said, wants to see that they know how to tender evidence in Court, how to ask questions, ?because sometimes they ask the wrong questions and end up losing a case they could have otherwise won".
Malanjum, addressing a complaint that that there was ?abundant evidence" of violation of Setback or Riparian Reserve Laws throughout the waterways in Sabah, but ?no prosecution" had ever taken place, he pointed out that the courts can't do anything unless the matter was brought before it. ?For instance, no NGO has ever filed a case before it."
He suggested the possibility, although the riparian reserves are state lands, mandamus or judicial writ issued as a command to a lower court or ordering a person to perform a public statutory duty. He was taking a question from Benoit Goossen, director of Danau Girang Field Centre, Kinabatangan.
Addressing another point, a Public Prosecutor explained that the criteria needed before pressing charges against environmental offenders was simple: In almost all criminal cases, there will definitely be a need to charge the case, as long as there's sufficient evidence, i.e. as long as the investigation papers and all the elements and ingredients of the offence are in order.
?The idea was to ensure that justice is done," he said..
Wilson Baya, the Director of Sabah Wildlife Department, lamented that his Department had no lawyers among its Investigation Officers and Prosecution Officers. ?There's a dire need to develop 'confidence' through 'exposure'."
Programme Manager Kanitha Krishnasamy conceded that wildlife laws in Malaysia were weak from the perspective of penalties. As laws are amended to provide high penalties, she said, more of these ?criminals" will seek professional legal help and ?this can be very intimidating in Court".
?We need to be in a position to go against them in Court."