High Court sets aside molest conviction of former Penang city councillor

GEORGE TOWN: The High Court here has allowed a former city councillor's appeal against his 2019 conviction and sentencing on a molest charge.

Judicial Commissioner Mohd Radzi Abdul Hamid set aside the molest conviction of L. Prem Anand after finding that a Magistrate's Court made a serious error in calling for his defence, as the prosecution had failed to prove a prima facie case against him.

“There are serious errors in several aspects of the case and based on these findings, the High Court finds that it was not safe for the lower court to convict him," he said when delivering his decision on Thursday (Sept 30).

Mohd Radzi then reversed the Magistrate’s Court decision in convicting the 54-year-old of using criminal force to outrage the modesty of a college student.

In reversing the conviction, Prem Anand’s three-year jail term and RM7,000 fine were set aside.

When reading out the grounds for his decision, Mohd Radzi said more than one question in the case was not answered during trial.

He said there was no proof of criminal force, there were questions with regards to the place of the incident, and there were contradictions in the two police reports made on the case.

"The other aspects of the case that were not looked into included the lack of a proper conduct of a DNA test and the victim’s refusal to (undergo) a medical examination.

"There are contradictions between both her (the alleged victim's) police reports and testimony in court.

“The High Court finds that the Magistrate was misdirected on the issue of criminal force in this case and there were doubts as to whether the case had involved criminal force,” he said.

Mohd Radzi said CCTV evidence showed there were many people and cars at the alleged place of the incident and the victim's conduct of not shouting and/or escaping when she agreed she could have done so, rendered her evidence suspect.

"The white marks on her clothes cannot be used as corroborative evidence as she did not mention them in her testimony, and the investigating officer testified that it could (have come) from any wall," he said.

The Magistrate’s Court had convicted Prem Anand of using criminal force to outrage the modesty of a college student, who was then 21 years old, outside an entertainment outlet in Beach Street at around 11.30pm on July 6, 2017.

Magistrate Jamaliah Abd Manap, in delivering her decision in November 2019, said the prosecution had presented a prima facie case against the accused.

Prem Anand, who is also a former aide to an assemblyman, was found guilty by the Magistrate's Court under Section 354 of the Penal Code for using criminal force on a person with the intent to outrage their modesty.

Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom on Thursday, lead counsel E. Gnasegaran said his client’s name had been tarnished by the case but the High Court decision had cleared his name.

“I believed my client was innocent from day one and the High Court decision proved this today,” he said.

Prem Anand, who appeared relieved by the decision, said: "It has been a big struggle for me and I have always maintained my innocence.

"Now it has been proven that I am innocent.

"I am grateful to those who stood by me."

Prem Anand was represented by Gnasegaran, Audrey Wee, S. Rethinakumar and JT Jothi.

Deputy public prosecutor Yazid Mustaqim Roslan said the prosecution will seek instructions from the Attorney General’s Chambers on whether or not to appeal the High Court decision.

Related stories: Former Penang councillor gets three years’ jail, RM7,000 fine for molesting student

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