PUTRAJAYA: The Court of Appeal upheld a RM375,000 award to five lawyers who were wrongfully arrested when they tried to provide legal aid to detained participants of a candlelight vigil.
A panel chaired by Justice Zaharah Ibrahim said the court found no reason to interfere with the High Court's findings that the wrongful arrest of the five amounted to illegal detention.
The five lawyers were Ravinder Singh Dhalliwal, Fadiah Nadwa Fikri, Murnie Hidayah Anuar, Puspawati Rosman and Syuhaini Safwan.
The panel, which included Justices Varghese George Varughese and Prasad Sandosham Abraham, unanimously dismissed the appeal with RM30,000 in costs.
The Government had attempted to appeal against both the High Court's judgement and the quantum of the award.
On May 23 last year, the High Court awarded RM15,000 in general damages and RM60,000 in aggravated and exemplary damages to each of the five.
The court also granted the group RM100,000 in costs.
In the landmark decision, Justice John Louis O’Hara ruled the detention of the five lawyers amounted to false imprisonment and that the lawyers’ constitutional rights were denied when they were arrested and not allowed access to legal representation.
The five, who were attached to the Bar Council’s Legal Aid Centre at the time, were arrested on May 7, 2009 at the Brickfields police station when they tried to gain access to 14 people detained earlier that night in connection with a candlelight vigil for political activist Wong Chin Huat.
The lawyers filed a suit in May 2012, naming the Inspector-General of Police, six police personnel, and the Government as defendants.
Fadiah Nadwa, speaking to reporters after the proceedings, said she hoped the decision would serve as a reminder to the authorities not to interfere with lawyers performing their duties.
"The constitutional right to counsel is rendered meaningless if police are allowed to intimidate lawyers or to stop them from meeting their clients," she said.
Senior Federal Counsel Zureen Elina Mohd Dom said she was awaiting instructions on whether to appeal at the Federal Court.
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