Court Rules Teen Who Killed 23 In Tahfiz Fire To Remain In Jail As Long As Agong Wishes

The terms and conditions of the accused's detention are subject to the discretion of the Agong from time to time.

Cover image via Daniel Chan/AP & Malay Mail

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Today, 11 September, the Court of Appeal upheld the conviction of a young individual who was found guilty of the tragic fire that killed 23 people at the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah Tahfiz in Kuala Lumpur in 2017

A three-member bench chaired by Justice Abu Bakar Jais also refused an appeal by the prosecution that a second accused person, who was acquitted at the close of the prosecution case on 28 January 2020, be ordered to enter his defence. The second teenager was initially charged with self-administration of drugs.

The bench, consisting of Justices Datuk Che Mohd Ruzima Ghazali and Datuk See Mee Chun, delivered unanimous decisions on both matters earlier today, reported New Straits Times.

The first teenager, who is now 22 years old, was convicted by the High Court on 17 August 2020, for the murders and was subsequently sentenced to detention at the discretion of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

Simultaneously, the High Court acquitted and discharged the other teenager, also now 22, of the same offence without requiring him to present a defence, as reported by the local media at the time.

The convicted teenager, who was 16 years old in 2017, had filed an appeal against the High Court's conviction, while the prosecution appealed against the acquittal of the second accused.

Justice Che Mohd Ruzima, while reading out the judgment, affirmed the High Court's decision, asserting that it was not erroneous in its conviction and sentencing of the accused.

The bench, in upholding the conviction, concurred with the High Court's findings regarding closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage

CCTV footage from various locations, including the tahfiz centre, a petrol station, a snooker centre, and the appellant's neighbour, indicated the appellant's deliberate involvement in starting the fire, reported The Star.

"It (the CCTV) only points to one direction which is that PKK1 (the appellant) climbed over the back fence of the tahfiz school together with an unidentified individual to start the fire, causing 23 deaths. With that the appellant's appeal is rejected since there was no argument presented by the defence regarding the sentence (jail) issued by the High Court, so the decision is upheld," Justice Che Mohd Ruzima said.

Image via Malay Mail

While the accused was charged under Section 302 and Section 34 of the Penal Code, which provides for the mandatory death sentence, he is protected under Section 97(1) of the Child Act 2001

Section 97(1) of the Child Act 2001 states that a death sentence shall not be pronounced or recorded against a person convicted of an offence if the child is under the age of 18, and in lieu of the death sentence the court shall order the person to be detained at the discretion of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

The High Court, in its ruling, had stated that the terms and conditions of the accused's detention are subject to the discretion of the Agong and only he can review them from time to time.

The 2017 case shocked the nation. Read more about it here:

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