PETALING JAYA: Branches of the special court handling sexual crimes against children should be set up faster to provide more efficient and easy access to justice for victims.
Bar Council child rights committee co-deputy chairman Ajeet Kaur said that so far, only two branches of the Special Criminal Court on Sexual Crimes Against Children have been set up since the idea for such special courts was mooted at the end of 2017.
“This has certainly been a very slow journey.
“Special courts can be set up within the premises of existing court complexes and do not involve expensive costs.
“All that is needed is a video-link room where the child is able to render evidence and a child-friendly waiting room,” she said.
In 2017, it was reported that every state was to have a special court to hear such crimes against children.
Currently, there is one in Putrajaya and another in Kuching.
Ajeet said the special court was also “glaringly lacking” a social welfare department officer to provide support to victims.
On the 12-month timeline to dispose of cases, she said the more important factor is for such cases to be given priority.
“Giving a shorter timeline may end up in justice hurried,” she said.
Ajeet suggested that deputy public prosecutors (DPPs) and court interpreters involved in child sexual abuse cases be provided with specialised training to be sensitised to issues and restrictions faced by victims.
“Often, the DPPs only meet the child for the first time on the day of the hearing.
“This cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be adequate,” she added.
Suriana Welfare Society Malaysia chairman James Nayagam said child victims should not be repeatedly interviewed to minimise the trauma they might already suffer from the crime.
“From the cases I have dealt with, some children can be asked to tell their story for up to 12 times – once to the investigating officer, paediatrician, psychiatrist, social worker and so on.
“There should be a centralised interview where all parties are present, so that the child does not have to relive the abuse repeatedly,” he said.
He also hoped the police will be given more funding to be better equipped when gathering evidence against child sexual abusers.
National Early Childhood Intervention Council adviser and senior consultant paediatrician Datuk Dr Amar Singh called on the authorities to fulfil the plan to set up special court branches in each state, equipped with video link facilities to enable the child to testify comfortably.
“If not in every state, such special courts can be created within different regions in Malaysia to conduct trials more efficiently,” he added.
Dr Amar also proposed a dedicated police team be formed to specifically deal with child sexual abuse cases to encourage experts in the field.
He said one of the challenges in such cases is gathering sufficient evidence earlier on, especially if the perpetrator is a family member who may manipulate the victim emotionally.