Malaysia Now Has A Special Court To Handle Sexual Crimes Against Children

Here's everything you need to know about it.

Prime Minister Najib Razak on Thursday, 22 June, launched a Special Court to handle sexual crimes against children

It's a first of its kind of court in Malaysia and also the first of its kind in Southeast Asia, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said after officiating the launch yesterday.

The Palace of Justice houses , the Malaysian Court of Appeal and Federal Court, and now the special Children's Court for sex crimes.

Image via Asian Correspondent

It is located in the Annexe building of the Palace of Justice

The Special Court will hear cases that occur in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, and Putrajaya.

"God willing, we will set up this (special) court to all states in stages," Najib said.

He also added that lawyers in the court should be provided with adequate training so as to ensure ethical approaches while questioning child witnesses.

The Special Court is set up under the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017. A senior Sessions Court judge from Klang will act as the judge for the Special Court.

According to a Bernama report, a total of 56 cases from Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Selangor has been transferred to the Special Court.

The first of which is set to be heard at the Special Court on 4 July, it reported.

It will be heard by Sessions Court judge Yong Zarida Sazali. According to The Star Online, judge Sazali has 25 years experience in the legal profession as a deputy public prosecutor, a magistrate and a Sessions Court judge.

Speaking about the Special Court, Najib said that it is different from the existing Court for Children, where the perpetrators are children. "This Special Court hears criminal cases where children are the victims," he added.

It would help expedite cases related to sexual crimes against children, perhaps resolving them in less than a year instead of several years as is the case now.

The Special Court would focus on cases such as pornography, child grooming and child sexual assault, in accordance with the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017.

It is equipped with infrastructure such as court recording transcription; a waiting room for child witnesses; live video link; child witness screens and disabled-friendly facilities.

Whether or not the media would be allowed to follow the proceedings of the Special Court would depend on the judge, the media would not be allowed into the waiting room for child witnesses, Chief Justice Md Raus Sharif said

“If the judge declares that it is a closed court, then you (the media) must leave. Other than that, it is a normal court and you can cover the proceedings,” he said.

The waiting room for child witnesses has been named Permata Room. It was officiated by Rosmah Mansor.

Rosmah, who is also patron of the Permata Programmes, opened the Permata Room, which is equipped with a television, computers and children's games.

It also has a mini-library of reading materials suitable for children which were contributed by the Permata Foundation.

Permata Room.

Image via The Malaysian Times

A special room, installed with a video-link facility, is also provided for "vulnerable witness". It is to ensure that they can testify from the room while feeling safe.

The room is accessible by the judge, the prosecutors and lawyers in the Special Court.

The proceedings at the Special Court would not be like in normal cases, Najib said, adding that the Special Court would have separate exits for both, the victims and accused

The victims would also not be able to see the faces of the accused, and vice versa, when they testify in court, The Star Online reported Najib as saying, who noted that such facilities were crucial to providing psycho-social support for child victims.

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