Introduction of new evidence raises legal eyebrows

  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 11 Aug 2010

PETALING JAYA: The Public Prosecutor can still introduce new evidence but such a disclosure should have been done at the beginning to allow witnesses to be cross-examined, Bar Council chairman Ragunath Kesavan said.

“The late disclosure creates doubt on the whole inquest. Coupled with the beatings that the judiciary system and public confidence have gone through, it makes it difficult for the inquest to continue,” he said yesterday.

Lawyers here are questioning why new evidence was being introduced at a late stage in Teoh Beng Hock’s inquest. The inquest began on July 29 last year.

Ragunath said the evidence of a purported “suicide note” posed a dilemma on whether witnesses would need to be called in again.

“The failure to produce the document as soon as it was discovered raises misgivings about the credibility and fairness of the Attorney-General’s Chamber and its poor judgment points to the lack of transparency,” he said in calling for a Royal Commission of Inquiry to be set up.

He said such suppression of evidence in Teoh’s high-profile case was “disturbing”, regardless of the reason given, and against the fundamental tenet of the criminal justice system.

“It is the duty of the court, and not of the A-G’s Chamber, to determine the authenticity or relevance of any evidence,” said Ragunath.

When contacted, former Bar Council president Datuk Ambiga Sreenivasan said she was shocked that new evidence was being introduced at such an “eleventh hour”.

“The explanation given defies logic and in any event cannot justify the withholding of critical evidence found among Teoh’s personal effects,” said Ambiga, adding that this evidence should have been one of the first to be disclosed.

Veteran lawyer Datuk V. Sithambaram said unlike a trial, the public prosecutor was duty bound in an inquest to produce all documents that might have a bearing towards establishing the cause of death.

He said investigating officer ASP Ahmad Nazri Zainal, who found the note, should have been called to testify earlier so that all involved parties could use the evidence to ask the appropriate questions for the coroner to arrive at a verdict later.

Asked whether evidence could be introduced at such a late stage in an inquest, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz declined to comment, adding that he left it to the coroner to decide.

Related Stories: Teoh inquest set to see battle of experts over new evidence Handwriting expert weighed

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