Private lawyer picked to help coroner

(The Star) – SHAH ALAM: In an unprecedented move, the Government has appointed a lawyer in private practice as lead counsel representing the Attorney-General’s Chambers in the inquest into the death of political aide Teoh Beng Hock.

Generally, it would be a Deputy Public Prosecutor who would assist the coroner in an inquest but this time, senior criminal lawyer Tan Hock Chuan has been picked for the job.

According to former A-G’s Chambers Classified Cases Unit head Datuk Salehuddin Saidin, this may be the first time a lawyer has been appointed to represent the chambers.

This was probably due to the sensitivity of the case, he said.

“Perhaps, they wanted to have an independent person,” said Salehuddin, who is now in private practice.

Speaking to reporters after the adjournment of the inquest, Tan said he was an advocate and solicitor appointed for the task by the Government with the written consent of the Public Prosecutor.

The former DPP said he was appointed by the A-G two days ago, adding that he did not know why he was picked.

Meanwhile, a senior lawyer who declined to be named said the Criminal Procedure Code allowed for private practitioners to be appointed to act for the A-G’s Chambers.

He said it was “quite common” in Britain for lawyers in private practice to be appointed to prosecute due to their experience in a particular area of law.

Tan, he said, had vast experience both as a prosecutor and criminal defence lawyer.

Senior lawyer Datuk V. Sithambaram agreed, adding that the A-G even had the power to engage a practising lawyer to prosecute criminal cases, by according him a written consent to do so.

He said Tan was an ideal candidate for the job.