Poca needed to curb organised crime, say experts

Analysts say investigations into cross-border criminal networks are time-consuming and may require suspects to be held longer during investigations.

(FMT) – The absence of the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (Poca) has made it harder for the police to investigate organised crime, law enforcement officers and experts said.

Recently, Inspector-General of Police Razarudin Husain was reported by Berita Harian as calling for the re-enactment of Poca to allow the police to deal with such criminal activities, including online gambling, more effectively.

Crime analyst Mizan Aslam said the enhanced police powers prescribed in Poca were vital due to complexities arising from the cross-border operation of criminal networks and their exploitation of technology.

“The police (usually) need time to (investigate) criminal links, rings and networks. Some of the masterminds operate outside the country.

“It is hard for the police to obtain all the necessary information from suspects in a short time, say, within 24 hours,” he told FMT.

Mizan, who also sits on the home ministry’s deradicalisation programme panel, said with cross-border crime rampant in the digital era, more time is needed to enable the police to probe suspects effectively and seek help from their counterparts abroad.

“The solution is Poca,” he said.

Another crime analyst, Shankar Durairaja, said cybercrime investigations are difficult to execute.

“All the evidence is digital. It takes time to analyse and identify certain matters such as the IP address, locations and suspects.

“During the investigation period, the suspects may escape. To prevent this, you have to detain them first,” said the UniKop college criminologist.

Poca, as enacted, allowed for the detention without trial of those suspected to have links with criminal organisations for up to 59 days.

Under Section 4(1)(a) of the Act, a person could be remanded for 21 days initially. The remand may be extended for up to 38 days under Section 4(2)(a).

The legislation, however, met with strong objections from various segments of civil society on the basis that it violated human rights and was open to abuse by the authorities.

In April last year, the apex court ruled that Section 4 and Section 15B of the Act were unconstitutional as they violated the doctrine of separation of powers by intruding into the judicial domain.

Section 15B, which is an ouster clause, restricts judges from enquiring into the grounds of a suspect’s detention.

To address these concerns, Shankar suggested that the police and the home ministry engage stakeholders including lawmakers, legal experts and academics to iron out their concerns so that an acceptable form of the repealed provisions can be reinstated.