New Straits Times - - Opinion -

THERE has been much con­cern and de­bate about the ex­tent of how vic­tims of crime can re­tal­i­ate. This is par­tic­u­larly so in re­gard to snatch theft vic­tims. De­spite the au­thor­i­ties ex­plain­ing the rea­sons be­hind the ar­rest of vic­tims re­tal­i­at­ing at snatch thieves, the re­ac­tion from the pub­lic, es­pe­cially Ne­ti­zens, is in­clined to sup­port­ing vic­tims.

On Sun­day, a Ye­meni stu­dent, who fell vic­tim to a snatch thief, was ar­rested af­ter he knocked down the sus­pect with his car, killing the man.

Po­lice are also look­ing for mar­ket ven­dors who at­tacked a man af­ter the lat­ter al­legedly tried to steal a hand­phone in Kota Kin­a­balu on Fri­day.

Peo­ple’s neg­a­tive re­ac­tions should be ex­pected, be­cause they may think that it is all right for vic­tims to re­tal­i­ate.

Most of us re­act with anger when we fall vic­tim to such thefts.

If some­one else has been a vic­tim, pub­lic em­pa­thy may also turn into an emo­tional out­burst that can re­sult in an at­tack on the sus­pect, as has been proven in many cases when sus­pects are ap­pre­hended by the pub­lic.

That is why we have cases of sus­pects be­ing beaten up af­ter be­ing nabbed by peo­ple.

How­ever, it is our duty to ex­plain that un­less and un­til the law is amended by Par­lia­ment, we must be guided by leg­is­la­tion.

In ac­cor­dance with the pro­vi­sion for a cit­i­zen’s ar­rest un­der Sec­tion 27 of the Crim­i­nal Pro­ce­dure Code, the pub­lic must hand sus­pects over to the po­lice.

We must al­ways ask our­selves whether ac­tions trig­gered by anger are jus­ti­fied.

This is be­cause vic­tims who in­flict se­ri­ous in­jury on sus­pects may be pe­nalised.

Although a per­son who has been snatched at or at­tacked has the right to de­fend him­self, there are lim­i­ta­tions un­der the law.

A mar­tial arts ex­po­nent, for ex­am­ple, can use his skills to over­power a snatch thief if he is a vic­tim, but it does not war­rant him to se­ri­ously in­jure or kill the thief, es­pe­cially if the thief is flee­ing.

There is a fine line be­tween an act of self-de­fence and a crim­i­nal of­fence.

Based on leg­is­la­tion, es­pe­cially the Pe­nal Code, it is clear what con­sti­tutes an of­fence.

The process of met­ing out sen­tences will be de­cided by the court based on the charge pre­ferred by the pub­lic pros­e­cu­tor, who will de­pend on the in­ves­ti­ga­tion pa­per and ev­i­dence pro­vided by the po­lice.

In essence, the el­e­ments of a crime are based on the co­in­ci­dence of mens rea and ac­tus reus, which mean the pres­ence of in­ten­tion and ac­tion.

There­fore, it is ad­vis­able for the pub­lic to be cau­tious about the is­sue of self-de­fence.

If an at­tack has caused hurt to the sus­pect, the per­pe­tra­tor may be charged un­der Sec­tion 324 for caus­ing griev­ous hurt, which pro­vides for a prison sen­tence of up to three years or a fine, or can­ing, or any two of the pun­ish­ments.

A more se­vere penalty awaits if it in­volves dan­ger­ous weapons or means, as Sec­tion 326 pro­vides a max­i­mum jail term of 20 years and fine, or whip­ping, if con­victed.

And if it re­sults in death, one can be charged un­der Sec­tion 302, which pro­vides the death sen­tence upon con­vic­tion.

The re­ported cases are a con­tentious is­sue. As such, I pro­pose that the au­thor­i­ties lis­ten to the views of the pub­lic and ex­perts to find the best way to tackle this is­sue, in­clud­ing amend­ing the law, if need be, to pro­tect vic­tims who may un­in­ten­tion­ally hurt sus­pects.

While wait­ing for such an am­i­ca­ble so­lu­tion, I would like to re­mind the pub­lic to re­spect the due process of the law and not take the law into their own hands.


Vic­tims of crime who in­flict se­ri­ous in­jury on sus­pects may be pe­nalised.

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