IPOH: The High Court here will conduct an inquiry involving the two main witnesses in the rape trial of former Perak executive councillor Paul Yong Choo Kiong.
Judge Datuk Abdul Wahab Mohamed said he would personally interview the alleged victim and another witness.
"On June 23, I will make a decision whether Section 20 of the Witness Protection Act (WPA), and Section 265 (A) of the Criminal Procedure Code should be applied or otherwise," he said after hearing brief submissions from the prosecution as well as the defence team via Zoom on Friday (May 28).
Both the prosecution and defence agreed that the inquiry should be conducted.
Last month, during the ongoing trial, the prosecution had submitted that the two main witnesses were under the WPA programme and wished to testify in camera without being seen by the accused as well as the defence lawyers.
In camera, the legal term for "in chambers", is when testimony is given behind closed doors without the presence of the public or others unrelated to the case.
In response to that, the defence team submitted a written submission on May 24.
While submitting, Yong's lead counsel Datuk Rajpal Singh said how witnesses are protected is at the discretion of the court.
He said the defence team agreed that the alleged victim could give evidence in camera, in the sense that the public gallery is emptied and a partition placed so that she would not be able to see the accused.
However, he added, the defence lawyers should have access to cross-examine her from the witness box.
"As for the second witness, we have rejected the prosecution's proposal of him giving evidence in camera as he, just like any other normal witness, should take the stand," he added.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Mohd Fitri Sadarudin said that the issue of the identity of the two witnesses was not just about their names as exposed in the witness list and affidavits.
"It covers a wider aspect and angle. For instance (in the case of the alleged victim) it is about emotional disturbance and trauma," he added.
Rajpal said if the WPA were to be applied, it would open the floodgates for other rape cases as well.
Justice Abdul Wahab pointed out to the prosecution that victims of rape, molest or even accident cases suffer from trauma as well.
"However, I will wait for the inquiry before making any decision on the issue, and a trial set in the agreed dates in June and July will proceed first," he added.
Trial dates have been fixed for June 23 to 25 and July 12 to 16.
On Aug 23,2019, Yong claimed trial at the Ipoh Sessions Court to raping his then 23-year-old maid.
The offence was allegedly committed in a room on the top floor of his house in Meru Desa Park on July 7 that year, between 8.15pm and 9.15pm.