Malaysia and Singapore: Video Recording Debates

Linked to Kana Sasakura’s earlier posts on how Japan has implemented the video recording of interrogations, the same subject has been recently raised in Malaysia and Singapore, though in response to different events.

In Malaysia, a commitment has been made to equip all offices of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) offices with Video Interview Rooms to facilitate the recording of suspect and witness interviews (story here). This commitment was undertaken against serious recent allegations of abuse, and aims to boost public confidence in the MACC (story here).

In Singapore, the issue was raised and discussed during the 2009 review of the Criminal Procedure Code. It resurfaced again in 2011, after a Court of Appeal acquittal in which the court noted that the investigator concerned had acted irregularly when taking the accused person’s statement. For now, the government has decided not to implement video recording as this “would not be really effective” in preventing coercive statements (story here). Singapore criminal defence lawyers have advocated for such video recording, arguing that this will, among others, protect “the police against wild accusations” (story here).

Effectiveness, cost, and logistics are relevant and important considerations when deciding whether to implement a criminal justice measure, but they should not be the only considerations. This is because criminal justice involves the use of coercive force against individuals by the State, a State that is also a fiduciary of the public’s trust. It is therefore important for the State to be able to justify the use of such coercive force to its public. A relevant and important justification, which is increasingly reflected in the public debates of both countries, is the transparency and fairness with which the State administers the criminal justice process. For some countries, the estimated effectiveness of certain criminal justice measures may not make their cost or implementation realistic. For other first-world countries, the impact of such cost may be less dire. Video recording will further level the playing field between the accused and the prosecution, and it will ensure a continued public confidence in the system, which is in fact what the MACC hopes its VIRs will do in Malaysia. More importantly, as observed by Sunil Sudheesan, a prominent criminal defence lawyer in Singapore, such video recording will benefit law enforcement authorities by protecting its investigators against “wild accusations” (see story).

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