To recruit lawyers to volunteer for the YBGK, KL Bar in conjunction with YBGK held a criminal law training workshop on 3.3.2012. Having had much fun doing “dockbrief” way back during pupillage, I decided to pursue criminal law again.
I spotted KL Bar’s periodical circular (mostly regarding Professional Development talks held from time to time) announcing the launch of the Yayasan Bantuan Guaman Kebangsaan (National Legal Aid Foundation). To recruit lawyers to volunteer for the YBGK, KL Bar in conjunction with YBGK held a criminal law training workshop on 3.3.2012. Having had much fun doing “dockbrief” way back during pupillage, I decided to pursue criminal law again. My first encounter with criminal law was intimidating. I had to engage in academic bullimia, only to realise that I would never use it in practice. Or so I thought. (I’m still traumatised by CLP)
The YBGK training was well attended. The KL Bar auditorium was almost full by 9am. YBGK did not even have to resort to using underhanded tactics such as luring people with the provision of breakfast. Lawyers were present voluntarily. (That’s a first, given the threats used to get them to attend AGMs and EGMs). I managed to wedge myself between two litigation lawyers who proceeded to boast about their conquests in court. When one converses with litigators, it is interesting how they always appear to be winning the case, but never really go into the details of the actual outcome of the case.
The training was conducted very well, with Leena and Rabin taking all the attendees through the law and the practical aspects of it. In true Malaysian-student style, I took down a lot of notes even though most of what was said was already in the handbook supplied. I also made sure to look over my shoulder at my neighbours (the litigators) to ensure that I didn’t miss out anything that was paraphrased from the handbook. Such was my determination to master the art of being a good criminal law advocate.
Then I was rostered for duty. What occured next would have been suitable as an episode of Police Academy. In all honesty, I might as well have been roostered to perch on a chicken coop. Given that most of the IPDs (Ibu Pejabat Daerah) Polis were under massive renovations and relocated to some ulu places, thus began my adventure. Armed with a GPS, I headed out on 15.42012 to my first assignment – attending to 7 juveniles at IPD Petaling. Instead of heading to IPD Petaling (Criminal division) which is nowhere near anything remotely in the Petaling (Jaya) district, I found myself at the Balai Polis Jalan Kelang Lama. As I marched in, in full sub court attire (on a blistering hot day), the police personnel at the front desk gave me wry smiles through parched lips. They looked bored and when I announced that I was from YBGK and informed them of my mission in life, they snapped out of their stupor and requested for my IC. I would have looked through my handbook because I did not recall having been drilled through this step in the procedure to interview clients, but having no time for that, I made a quick decision to refuse the request. My main concern was my IC photograph, which is not too flattering.
Having then explained the situation, I was then directed to the proper location. Mission accomplished. I had fun interviewing the juveniles, all of whom gave me a long and protracted version of their mission. Steven Spielbergs in the making (hereinafter known as “the Steven Spielbergs”) – note the usage of corporate jargon.
The next day, I headed to the Jinjang Detention Centre to conduct the remand hearings of my clients, the Steven Spielbergs. The magistrate attending to the matters politely heard me out and proceeded to grant the police their request for remand. I had a chance to interview more detained persons on the spot and conduct remand hearings, guided by other senior criminal practitioners. During one such hearing, a senior kindly passed me a note with the words “roadtrip”. What came to mind was a lovely outing to Malacca for cendol or to Singapore for the weekend. I love roadtrips. At that instance, I could not link roadtrips to detained persons. It just did not make sense. After the hearings, the senior patiently explained to me that a “roadtrip” meant the police could not make a subsequent application for 7 days of remand following a previous grant of 7 days of remand.
The next time I was rostered, there were problems with YBGK lawyers gaining access to detained persons. I hope this matter has been resolved. The experience was fun and truly beyond my scope of work as a corporate lawyer, being caged in the office for more than 9 hours a day. Try it some time!
Esther Anandaraj is at times biased when it comes to representing detained persons who are arrested for offences committed against women. Volunteering with YBGK may help her overcome that bias.