Chambering students acting as touts

PETALING JAYA: Unscrupulous legal firms have now resorted to using chambering students to solicit clients at magistrates’ courts, say several senior criminal lawyers.

The senior lawyers, who declined to be named, also revealed that touting tactics have evolved over the past few years, with chambering students now being assigned to courthouses to stake out potential clients.

“Last time, you could find touts who were not lawyers. But now, they have changed the modus operandi and a lot of touting is done by using chambering students.

“These chambering students will be based at one court, and when we see them, we can’t actually accuse them of touting because they will then say they are chambering students, ” said a criminal lawyer based in Kuala Lumpur who only wanted to be known as “Anne”.

She said touting was rampant, especially at the Petaling Jaya Magistrate’s Court, where such chambering students would target vulnerable individuals who have got into trouble with the law.

“When a person’s family member is charged in court, they will feel troubled or depressed.

“So, these people are their target because they know if they say scary things to them, they will listen to and quickly appoint a lawyer, ” said Anne, who added such touts would usually charge these vulnerable family members RM500 for each case mention.

“That means, if he has 10 cases in one day, he’s already made RM5,000, ” she doted.

Anne’s allegations tally with the accounts of several senior criminal lawyers The Star spoke to.

A criminal lawyer known as Tam revealed that one would easily stumble into touts at the Petaling Jaya Magistrate’s Court in the mornings.

“If you go to the PJ court at 8.30am, you will be approached by a few individuals, especially a lawyer couple.

“It is quite rampant in Petaling Jaya, Ampang and Klang, ” she said.

According to Tam, these touts would even identify clients who are more well-off during their stakeouts.

“They can even charge these people between RM10,000 and RM20,000, end up persuading them to sell their properties and plead guilty, even if it’s not in their best interests, ” said Tam, who also claimed that some touts even offer money-lending services for bail.

“Somehow, when poor people go to court, even if they didn’t commit any crime, they can end up poorer (if they borrow money to post bail), ” said Tam, adding that touting lawyers did not have their clients’ best interests in mind as they were only focused on closing cases as quickly as possible, even if it meant advising clients to admit guilt regardless of the situation.

“They will try not to prolong the case, and they will try to persuade their client to plead guilty so they can get fast money, ” said Tam, who claimed these legal firms have also carved out their respective “territories”.

“Normally, they will ‘conquer’ a particular court, whether it’s PJ, Shah Alam, Ampang or Klang. It’s really an open secret.”

Tam and Anne said it was very hard for others to lodge reports against these shady legal firms as they were said to be have good “connections”.

Nurul, another lawyer familiar with touting, said victims would often find their complaints to the Bar Council futile, given that no receipt was provided upon payment.

“The public must know that every time they pay a lawyer, they must get a receipt, ” said Nurul.

She added that the Malaysian Bar also had to do more to address touting and unethical lawyers.

She proposed the authorities such as the police or the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission go undercover to put a stop to such practices.

“It has to be a year-long effort. They also must have different undercover officers, as these touts will recognise them.”

On Tuesday, the Malaysian Bar relaunched a mobile app that will contain a digital membership card for members of the Bar in its effort to address touting or cases where individuals claim to be advocates or solicitors.

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