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Citizen arrest not applicable to vandalism

An image collage depicting several vandalised aspects of the MRT’s facilities.

An image collage depicting several vandalised aspects of the MRT’s facilities.

Zaidi Azmi
Written by Zaidi Azmi

KUALA  LUMPUR – July 25, 2017: Those who witness an act of vandalism, no matter how upsetting it can be, are reminded not to try and make a citizen’s arrest.

A citizen’s arrest is an arrest made by a person who is not an authorised enforcement officer.

Lawyer Fatihah Jamhari of the Concerned Lawyers for Justice (CLJ) group, said the Criminal Procedure Code allows a citizen’s arrest only for non-bailable and seizable offences such as murder and robbery.

Anything beyond that is vigilantism, which is illegal.

Fatihah gave this clarification in response to numerous calls in social media suggesting that Malaysians stage a citizen’s arrest if they witness anyone vandalising facilities of the new Sungai Buloh–Kajang Mass Rapid Transit line.

“The proper procedure is to hand over the offender to the police without delay.

“If there is no reason to believe that he has committed an offence, he should be released at once,” said Fatihah.

Another lawyer, Aidil Khalid, concurred on the illegality of a vandalism-triggered citizen’s arrest.

Vandalism is stipulated as mischief under the Penal Code and is thus not a seizable offence.

He pointed out that a wrongful citizen’s arrest violates Article 5 of the federal Constitution which protects personal liberty.

“The arrest of a person is a deprivation of his personal liberty, regardless if he has committed an offence. So the arrest can only be carried out in strict compliance to the letters of the law.

“In my view, no one should take the law into their own hands. If they witness an vandalism, they should take pictures as evidence and report it to the authorities,” said Aidil.

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About the author

Zaidi Azmi

Zaidi Azmi

Despite becoming The MOLE's journalist in 2014, he still has a hard time traversing the city. If he is not lost, this northern kampung boy can be found struggling to make some sense out of the Malaysian political sphere.