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Azalina: New law to pre-record children’s court testimony, stop lawyers from badgering with improper questions

Publish date: Thu, 23 Mar 2023, 03:54 PM

KUALA LUMPUR, March 23 — The Malaysian government is proposing to make it less intimidating for children to testify as witnesses in court, by pushing for law reforms to enable pre-recording of their entire testimony without having to attend the trial, minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said said today.

Azalina, the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Institutional Reform), also said the government will be proposing law changes to stop lawyers from “badgering” children in court with improper questions.

She said these are part of three proposed amendments to the Evidence of Child Witness Act 2007 which would be tabled at the Dewan Rakyat next Monday.

Currently, this law allows a child witness’s examination-in-chief to be recorded in a video, and for that video to be used in a trial. Examination-in-chief typically refers to the part of court proceedings where the prosecution questions the witness.

“Before it was only video-taped evidence in chief, now we are changing to special hearing, for pre-recorded examination-in-chief, cross-examination, re-examination, the child does not have to attend trial. I hope all the MPs will support these amendments to the Act,” she told the media in an engagement session at Parliament here.

As for the two other proposed amendments expected to be tabled next Monday, Azalina said this includes the definition of a “child witness” to be proposed to be raised from below the age of 16, to the new age of below 18 years old.

She said the other amendment to be proposed is the prohibition of improper questions to child witnesses, saying: “So we want the court to interject.”

She said there is the challenge of defence lawyers pressing child witnesses with improper questions: “It does happen, the job of defence counsels is to defend clients so they will badger with difficult questions, and this is a challenge.”

It is understood that the proposed amendment will enable the court to have the power to stop questions that are belittling or harassing in nature to avoid the child witness from being traumatised or intimidated.

These proposed amendments to the Evidence of Child Witness Act 2007 will be tabled by the government, along with three other proposed amendments to the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017, with the overall aim of strengthening protection for children in Malaysia.

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