Archive for the ‘Children's Safety’ Category

EXCLUSIVE: Children exploited by drug addict parents

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018
A MOTHER was found to have used her two-month-old baby for money to satisfy her drug addiction. (FIle pix)

ALOR STAR: A MOTHER was found to have used her two-month-old baby for money to satisfy her drug addiction.

This was revealed during a joint operation under the National Blue Ocean Strategy with the National Anti-Drug Agency (Nada), police and the state Education and Welfare Departments.

A state Welfare Department spokesman said drug addicts had been using children to get cash. Some mothers even drugged their children to get them to
do what they wanted, resulting in children becoming addicts.

He said in just three months, the department had rescued 11 children, aged between 2 months and 13 years, who were neglected by their drug addict parents.

He said it was unfortunate that the children did not get the opportunity to go to school.

“Some of them are neglected, while others are homeless. The department has rescued 11 children since we started the operation last year.

“The children are being cared for by their relatives,” he told the New Straits Times.

He said the department rescued five siblings, including a 2-month-old baby, during a raid in Kota Sarang Semut here last November.

He added that of the five, an 11-year-old tested positive for drugs and had drug supplies on him, believed to belong to his parents.

“Nada officers had detained the parents. But, they continue to use their children to gain people’s sympathy. The five children are under their aunt’s care after receiving a temporary order under Section 19(2) of the Child Act (Amendment) 2016.”

He said four siblings, aged between 3 and 9, were found in a dilapidated house, while their father was busy taking drugs at a neighbour’s house, during another operation in Simpang Kuala near here.


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Malaysia tops in South-East Asia for online child pornography.

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has the highest number of IP addresses uploading and downloading photographs and visuals of child pornography in South-East Asia, authorities have said.

The number of children falling prey to perpetrators whom they befriended online is also reportedly increasing fast.

Many Malaysian parents let their children use handphones without monitoring them, and more than 60% of children spend time in online chatrooms on the Internet on a daily basis.

Data shows that close to 20,000 IP addresses in Malaysia upload and download photographs and visuals of child pornography and that the country ranks top in South-East Asia in this regard.

Asst Comm Ong Chin Lan of the Royal Malaysia Police’s Sexual, Women and Child Investigation Division (D11), in a seminar on “Cyber Protection for Children”, revealed that based on data furnished by Dutch police based in Malaysia in 2015, about 17,338 IP addresses involved in child pornography were from Malaysia.

ACP Ong said data showed that prior to 2014, an average of 60 children a year were sexually assaulted by perpetrators whom they had befriended through the Internet.

The figure increased to 184 in 2015 and 183 in 2016. In 2017, the figure was 117, as of May 2017.

It is learnt that about 51% of children aged between 13 and 15 befriended the perpetrators through messaging app WeChat. Other channels included Facebook, WhatsApp and Beetalk.

Based on an investigation by the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) of children between 10 and 17 in 2015, 91.6 % owned a handphone before the age of 15 while 88.5% had Facebook or other social media accounts.

It also found that only 35.6% of parents monitor their children’s activities.

Another figure that revealed a worrying trend was that 60% of girls and 40% of boys would go on to meet the people they befriended online.

Chen Pei Ling of non-governmental organisation PS The Children revealed during the seminar that out of 10 children surveyed by the group, three admitted to having met “boyfriends” whom they had never met in real life before.

Sin Chew Daily/Asia News Network
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Preventing teen suicide in era of social media

Sunday, January 7th, 2018
Good guidance for teenagers is vital as what they see or view on social media can shape their thoughts and opinions.

Experts are worried that impressionable teenagers may be influenced by social media or TV shows that ‘romanticise’ the act of suicide.

THE grieving families of two California teenagers who committed suicide last April, just days after watching Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, said the show acted as a trigger for their daughters. Bella Herndon, who was three days shy of 16, and Priscilla Chui, who had battled depression and struggled in school, did not know each other, but had watched the show at around the same time and died four days apart.

In the series, based on Jay Asher’s New York Times bestseller of the same name and produced by pop star Selena Gomez, young Hannah Baker committed suicide, and her reasons for doing so are contained in a series of cassette tapes she mailed to her classmates.

A few months ago, a college student in the Klang Valley allegedly imitated what he saw in the show by jumping off a building to his death. His friends were shocked by the incident as they had seen similar behaviour in other friends, who watched the series.

In 2016, Befrienders Kuala Lumpur reported 7,446 calls related to suicide; 26 per cent of them were students.

Social media and teen shows can be very influential in the lives of young adults today, because it’s about wanting to connect; to be in tune with every single experience that life can offer them, said HELP University counselling psychologist Dr Gerard Louis.

“They don’t want to be left out yet ironically, this generation of young people describe themselves as isolated and excluded. Many studies are beginning to show that there is a connection between heavy social media use and feeling isolated.”

He said what researchers were trying to figure out was whether isolation drove social media use or the heavy use of social media drove isolation, as all the time spent on social media deprived them of real interactions with people.

“Another reason people feel a sense of exclusion is that people watch all these interactions going on in social media and that it seems like everyone is connecting with everyone else but it always seems like other people’s lives are so much better than theirs, such as dream vacations and new homes.

“So the more they see this, the more they feel left out and are never able to get what they want, hence the greater the level of exclusion and possibly depression.”

However, he explained, this did not mean that social media had a causal link to suicide.

“We don’t know yet the mechanism that happens regarding this issue but there are certainly relationships here between high social media use and the heightened sense of exclusion and isolation. This makes people more vulnerable to suicide attempts.”

Louis pointed out that teenagers were more susceptible to ideas of suicide.

“For one, the teenage world can typically be a very confusing place. A very famous psychologist, Stanley Hall, coined the term ‘storm and stress’ to describe a heightened state of turmoil that teenagers experience due to the rapid physiological, psychological, emotional and social changes taking place in their lives.

“They’re not children anymore but not yet adults. Many go through an ‘identity crisis’ during this stage. Their views of right and wrong are constantly changing, often depending on their peers for direction and who influence them most. It’s often also said that the self esteem is most battered during this stage.

“On top of all of this, there’s the stress of having to constantly do well in school and exams. The pressure for many of these young people is great. While they have many virtual friends on Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms, they remain lonely.”

He said suicide happened when people did not feel a strong sense of connection with significant others and experience a deep sense of hopelessness regarding the future.

“In such a psychological state, and without a strong anchor in life, you can understand why ideas of suicide or self-harm appeal to many young people.”

Homemaker Stephanie Leong believes it depends on how the child is brought up.

“Children who are brought up properly are strong and confident in their own beliefs and are not easily swayed by others. They most likely will have a responsible adult who was always there for them when they were growing up, to guide them, to listen to them and to be their pillar of strength. Spending half an hour a day of quality time with them is better than none at all.

“For children who grew up without parental love and guidance, they will likely turn to their peers for attention. If their peers are of a bad influence or vicious in moral character, the child will be susceptible to their impact. The child may grow up insecure and without self-awareness. They will do anything to please their peers, just to be accepted,” said the mother of two.

She said social media and teen shows were big influences in the lives of young adults simply because they spent so much time there.

“If personalities they hero-worship are a bad influence, they’ll most likely mimic their behaviour.”

Leong, who founded the Facebook group “Parents To Tweens & Teens – Malaysia”, explained she started it when her kids were in their teens so parents like herself could discuss the problems their teenage children might face, and to support each other.

“Most parents fear the rebellious teen. For whatever reasons, be it hormonal or influence from friends, a docile and happy child may suddenly turn into an angry and stubborn teen. It’s really hard to get through to them.

“We, as parents, must learn to grow with them. We cannot discipline them like a 2-year-old anymore. We have to evolve with them. We need to be their friend more than a parent. We want to gain their trust so they will confide in us. We need to learn to listen and not judge. We need to let the leash loose.”

From discussions with other parents in the group, it’s clear that if parents are too strict, their kids will stop telling them what they’re up to, she added.

“After all, they’re teens and not children that we can easily control anymore. They can do a lot of things without our knowledge. We need to choose our battles and not fight them on every little issue.”

But how can parents be an authoritative figure and confidant at the same time?

“I believe that for our children to respect us, we must also learn to respect them as individuals. We have to be consistent. For instance, my children know that they can get away with certain things but they also know that I draw the line at being untruthful and being disrespectful.

“A messy room is not nice but it’s not the end of the world. My children are not afraid to tell me that they’ve done something wrong. They know the worst they will get from me is an earful. Also, do not make promises to your children you can’t keep. It’s okay to say you’ll try instead. And it’s also okay to say you’re sorry if you’ve wronged them.”

A student counsellor from a private college in Sunway concurred.

“Young adults are very different from when we were teenagers before. There is a fine line between being a friend and foe.

“Unfortunately, most don’t come to me voluntarily for counselling. It’s usually recommended by the lecturer when they notice abnormal behaviour or by parents who can’t get through to them,” she said.

She added that parents who pushed their college kids to extremes by demeaning them or yelling at them in front of their friends would be surprised at the lengths they would go to get attention.

“The best way I’ve seen to deal with a troubled youth is to take them out on one-on-one outings, so they feel special and will more likely open up to you.”


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Nutritionists to work together with PTAs nationwide to increase awareness on healthy eating.

Sunday, November 26th, 2017
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam on a walkabout after launching a health campaign, the Kem Nak Sihat “Bersama Komuniti Kekal Sihat” (Creating a healthy community together). Pix by Mohd Asri Saifuddin Mamat

KLANG: Nutritionists will be sent to schools nationwide to hold nutrition talks and classes with Parent-Teacher Associations (PTA) to enlighten parents on the importance of healthy eating in childhood.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said the programme, “Awareness on Health Eating with PTA”, organised in collaboration with the Education Ministry, aims to educate parents and promote a healthy eating lifestyle.

This, he said, would help bring down the number of overweight and obese children in the country, as well as prevent non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

“I have asked the ministry’s nutrition department to organise classes with PTAs, especially with mothers because they play a crucial role and have a greater influence in selecting the choice of foods and drinks for their children.

“Hence, if they are well informed on the proper diet required for children, on the amount of fruits, vegetables, proteins and carbohydrates to take per meal and so forth, it will help create a healthy society.

“Parents sometimes treat their children to fast food as a reward for an achievement. This, in the long run, will become a culture in the family and the child will associate success to fast food.

“Therefore, if parents have the information needed, it will help them make better choices when it comes to food preparation or eating out,” he said, adding that the programme, which started early this year will be expanded to schools nationwide in due time.

Dr Subramaniam told reporters this after launching a health campaign, the Kem Nak Sihat “Bersama Komuniti Kekal Sihat” (Creating a healthy community together) here today.

The Kem Nak Sihat is an initiative by the Health Ministry to increase awareness on the need to practice a healthy lifestyle by eating right and exercising. It will be conducted nationwide.

This year’s Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) results saw the inclusion of Body Mass Index (BMI) component in the Primary School Assessment Report (PPSR).

It was revealed that more than 50,000 Year Six pupils nationwide are obese.

The results showed that a total of 268,314 (63.4 per cent) students recorded normal BMI; 56,584 (13.4) students are at risk of being obese; 58,294 (13.8 per cent) students are obese; and 40,347 (9.5 per cent) students underweight.

For the National Physical Fitness Standard, 40,957 (9.5 per cent) candidates recorded ‘very high’ fitness levels and 168,101 (38.8 per cent) candidates recorded high fitness levels. The other 189,929 (43.9 per cent) candidates recorded fit fitness levels and 3,644 (0.8 per cent) candidates recorded unfit fitness levels.

Malaysia’s National Health and Morbidity Survey 2015 found that 17.5 per cent of those aged 18 and above, or 17.5 per cent of the 3.5 million total, have diabetes.


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Over 1,800 teenagers, children went missing last year

Thursday, November 16th, 2017
Deputy Home Minister Datuk Masir Kujat says a total of 1,803 children and teenagers under 18 years of age were reported missing last year. (Image is for illustration purpose only.)
By Bernama - November 15, 2017 @ 10:59pm

KUALA LUMPUR: A total of 1,803 children and teenagers under 18 years of age were reported missing last year the Dewan Rakyat was told today.

Of the number, 979 of them were found while 824 others are still missing.

Deputy Home Minister Datuk Masir Kujat said the number had increased as compared to 2015 figures when 1,782 went missing, 1,563 were found and 219 are still missing

In 2014, a total of 2,015 people were reported missing, 1,959 were traced and 56 still missing while in the previous year 2,054 people were reported missing with 2,026 people found and 28 still missing.

For the period 2013 – 2016 it was revealed that the main cause of teenagers running away from home was to seek freedom which involved 4,188 cases, following friends (1,330 cases), following lovers (1,025 cases), family misunderstandings (715 cases), not interested in studies (150 cases ), seeking employment (101 cases), custody disputes (64 cases) and lack of family attention (81 cases).

He was replying to a question from Dr Izani Husin (PAS-Pengkalan Chepa) who wanted to know the statistics on children and teenagers running from home from 2013 to 2016.

Masir said the problem of runaway teenagers and children could be solved if parents monitored their children’s movement and friends as well as forbade them from going out with strangers.

He said parents should also monitor their children’s digital use and interactions on social media platforms such as Facebook, WeChat, WhatsApp, YouTube as they could be easily influenced, adding that to steer them away from unhealthy culture, parents should emphasise on religious and moral education.

He added that in terms of gender 1,222 female children and teenagers went missing last year as compared to 581 male children and teenagers.

From 2013 to 2016, 65 cases involved children aged six and under, seven to 12 years old (297 cases), 13 to 15 years old (3,959 cases) and 16 to 18 years (3,333 cases) in the 2013 to 2016 period.


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Drug abuse could lead to acute mental disorder, says doctor.

Sunday, September 24th, 2017

PETALING JAYA: Drug abuse, especially club drugs, may not only induce short term mental problems but also trigger schizophrenia among those who are predisposed to it, said consultant psychiatrist Dr Rusdi Abd Rashid.

He said cannabis and methamphetamine could trigger schizophrenia in drug users who have risk factors such as family history.

The Universiti Malaya’s Centre for Addiction Science Research director warned that an early onset of schizophrenia due to drug use would require treatment for life.

For drug-induced psychosis, the users’ behaviour could suddenly become abnormal and they suffer from hallucination or delusion and behave aggressively, which mimic schizophrenia, said Dr Rusdi.

“If drugs are taken in the long term, some psychosis may be persistent and may turn into schizophrenia. It is not known yet if the condition will become permanent,” he said.

He said drug-induced psychosis might be acute and could lead to drug users harming or killing others.

Dr Rusdi said the University Malaya Medical Centre sees 30 to 60 cases of drug-induced psychosis every month.

Patients usually recover within three days to two weeks with treatment but if a drug user returns to the habit, he or she will have continued psychosis, he said.

He added that those wanting to kick their drug addiction may require life-long counselling.

Young patients are usually school dropouts who become dependent on their parents, he said.

He said most addicts start abusing drugs between the ages of 20 and 30 but some start as young as 12.

Dr Rusdi said there was effective treatment for opiates available but no medication yet for newer drugs.

He said most major hospitals had treatment for drug addiction and those with affected family members can seek help there.
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Should parents be liable for a child’s crime?

Thursday, September 21st, 2017
In parts of the United States, under Parental Responsibility Laws, parents can be held legally responsible for crimes committed by their children.

THE fire at the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah religious school in Kampung Datuk Keramat, Kuala Lumpur, has raised questions. The fact that it was a case of alleged arson, motivated by revenge, and most of the perpetrators are teenagers, makes the tragedy even harder to accept.

Perhaps, it could have been prevented if appropriate measures were taken to control the alleged perpetrators. Had there been better supervision of the teens involved, this tragedy could very well have been averted, and the death of 21 children and two teachers could be avoided.

Were there early signs of mental or emotional instability or distress among the perpetrators prior to the incident that parents should have been aware of? This inevitably leads many to ask whether the parents or guardians were partially to blame? Were they too permissive? Were they not loving enough? Were they aware of their children’s whereabouts?

If there is truth in the allegation that the teens were under the influence of substances when the act was committed, were the parents or guardians aware of their children’s state, and do they have the responsibility to warn the authorities to prevent any misadventure? If making them criminally culpable is too callous a proposal for our society, can they then be made liable in a civil lawsuit?

A good place to start answering the questions is perhaps the United States, since cases such as these are more rampant there.

In the US, there is something called the Parental Responsibility Law, under which parents can be held legally responsible for crimes committed by their children. Almost every state in the US has some sort of parental responsibility law that holds parents or legal guardians responsible for property damage, personal injury, theft, shoplifting or vandalism resulting from intentional or wilful acts of their children.

In California, parents can be held liable for any “willful misconduct causing injury, death or property damage” by a minor under 18. They are also liable for damages resulting from their child’s negligence while operating an automobile with the parents’ permission, and can be made accountable for a victim’s medical expenses up to certain amount.

Illinois parental responsibility laws prescribe liability for parents whose child’s wilful or malicious act causes personal injury or damage to the property of others. In Maine, although parents are also liable for their child’s wilful or malicious damage to a person or property, but financial exposure is limited to only US$800 (RM3,351), regardless of the amount of actual loss.

Another possible avenue is for the matter to be pursued under the broad umbrella of the tort of negligence, which allows someone to be made responsible for their incautious action or omission that have made others incur pain, suffering and loss.

The courts will usually be reluctant to legally recognise this sort of cause of action as a legitimate basis for a civil suit if the perpetrator is emancipated, or is an adult living with his or her parents. This disinclination extends to situations involving mentally incompetent or emotionally unstable adult perpetrators who live under the care and supervision of their parents. The judges are usually not in favour of imposing a duty on a parent to control their adult or emancipated offspring, without either a court order or other legal process expressly making the parents the legal custodian. Absent of the aforesaid legal authority, the court will usually insist on something called “special relationship” which ties the perpetrator to the parents.


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Rights of children in Islam

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

Protecting our offspring means helping them to fulfil their true potential.

EARLIER this month, the sentencing of a father who abused his biological daughter sexually and physically did not just become major news locally but also captured the attention of the international media.

We need to realise that for the child, the emotional and psychological impact of those horrendous acts would definitely be very difficult to overcome.

One cannot fully absorb the thought that such abuse has actually happened.

And whatever we might feel, it is truly not the same as what the victim felt when going through the ordeal of living in fear with someone who was supposed to protect and love her as a father should.

From the Islamic point of view, a child is bestowed upon his parents from Allah the Almighty as a trust (amanah). With this trust, comes responsibility.

The responsibility of a parent includes providing the child with a living environment in which he or she can feel safe and able to develop his or her individuality to achieve the best that life can offer.

It is stated in the Quran: “And they who say: O our Lord! Grant us wives and our offspring the joy of our eyes, and make us guides to those who guard (against evil)” (Al-Furqan, Chapter 25: Verse 74).

However, the word “irresponsible” is simply not enough to describe the acts of the father mentioned.

A parent’s monstrous abuse of a child cannot just be categorised as being irresponsible.

Somehow or other, this man has lost his sense of mercy, compassion and love that a normal man would have for his child. In short, his mental condition is indeed questionable.

When it comes to treating children, one must emulate the Prophet Muhammad.

Anas ibn Malik, the servant of the Prophet recollected: “I never saw anyone who was more compassionate towards children than Allah’s Messenger.

“His son Ibrahim was in the care of a wet nurse in the hills around Madinah. He would go there, and we would go with him, and he would enter the house, pick up His son and kiss him, then come back.”

In addition, the Prophet’s love, compassion and mercy were for all children and not just towards his own offspring.

Just as we are concerned with the individual rights of adults and constantly seek to improve the enjoyment of those rights, we must never forget the rights of children.

Children’s rights seldom receive the deserved attention in most societies. Specific focus on this must be given in policy-making and social development programmes.

Children’s rights are not just about giving them education and protection; it is ultimately about their right to have a normal childhood filled with happiness.

In the Islamic worldview, the framework of maqasid al-Shari’ah (the intentions of Syariah law) should be the best guidance for those with the power and responsibility to make decisions and formulate policies that aim to protect the welfare of children.

The higher intents of Syariah are principles, answers and the wisdom behind rulings and laws in Islam.

Muslim scholars and jurists have largely agreed that the broad objectives or these intents are to promote the overall welfare of mankind and prevent harm and evil.

The fundamental rule to be observed is that the intention behind a ruling must be directed towards the fulfilment of something good and the avoidance of something harmful.

Allah the Almighty says in the holy Quran: “[And they are] those who, if We give them authority in the land, establish prayer and give zakah and enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong. And to Allah belongs the outcome of [all] matters.” (Al-Haj, Chapter 22: verse 41)

Therefore, any effort to protect the rights of children must also meet the objectives or the intentions of Syariah, which include the preservation of the five essentials of religion, life, mind, offspring and property. These essentials are so critical that without them, life may be impossible or chaotic.

Allal Al-Fassi explains: “The general higher objective of Islamic law is to populate and civilise the earth and preserve the order of peaceful coexistence therein; to ensure the earth’s ongoing well-being and usefulness through the piety of those who have been placed there as God’s vicegerents; to ensure that people conduct themselves justly, with moral probity and with integrity in thought and action, and that they reform that which needs reform on earth, tap its resources, and plan for the good of all.”

In this case, protection of the offspring is not just limited to upholding and formulating the laws and rules of the religion with regard to children; it must also include promotion of their right to benefit from what life can offer them.

By Enizahura Abdul Aziz
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Harsh lessons from fire

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017
Firemen removing a body from the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah religious school in Kampung Datuk Keramat, Kuala Lumpur, on Thursday. PIC BY ROSDAN WAHID

A TERRIBLE fire occurred at a religious school in Kampung Datuk Keramat, Kuala Lumpur, at 5.15am last Thursday. The blaze killed 23 people — 21 students and two teachers. Six people were rescued, with three still in critical condition and warded in Hospital Kuala Lumpur. Fire and Rescue Department officials described the fire as unusually “raging” when they arrived at the scene.

In the first 24 hours after the tragedy, attention was focused on fire and safety issues. Initially, the fire was perceived as an “accident” that could have been prevented. Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Tan Sri Noh Omar said the school did not have a valid permit from the department although “it was in the process of applying for one”. He instructed the department to conduct checks on all religious schools in the country “to ensure that they abide by safety guidelines”.

The public who watched the news of the fire in the electronic media or read about it in the print or social media) could see the permanently-fixed window grille at the top floor of the building which had prevented its occupants from escaping. According to reports, the building had one fire exit only on the third floor (where the fire started).

However, in the second 24 hours after the tragedy, the public was made aware of the possibility that the fire was not an accident but arson.

This came about after police detained seven teenagers, aged between 11 and 18. Police believed the boys had (six of whom were found to be positive for ganja) set fire to the school “following a spat between them and the students”.

City police chief Datuk Amar Singh said the suspects had intended to burn down the building “in an act of revenge over a name-calling incident that took place a few days earlier”. He believed the suspects had taken drugs before they started the fire. Investigations revealed that the suspects had used two cooking gas cylinders and a hydrocarbon accelerant (petrol) to commit the offence. The suspects had taken the cylinders to the top floor to start the fire.

He said the case was being investigated under Sections 302 (for murder) and 435 (mischief by fire) under the Penal Code. Section 302 carries the mandatory death penalty, while Section 435 carries a maximum prison sentence of seven years and a fine.

What was not mentioned is that if these suspects are charged under Section 436 (mischief by fire to destroy a building used for education), the penalty upon conviction is higher — a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and a fine.

Section Two of the Fire Services Act 1988 (Act 341) provides a detailed definition of the term “fire hazard” as including, inter alia:

ANY unlawful alteration to a building as may render escape from any part thereof in the event of fire “more difficult”;

ANY removal, or absence from any building of any fire-fighting equipment or fire-safety installation that is required by law to be provided in the building; and,

INADEQUATE means of escape from any part of the building to any place of safety in the event of a fire.

Under Section 8, if the Fire and Rescue Department director-general (D-G) is satisfied that a fire hazard exists in any premises, he “may serve” the owner or occupier a fire hazard abatement notice within a period stipulated in the notice. Failure to comply is an offence under Section 10, punishable with a fine not exceeding RM5,000 or prison term not exceeding three years, or both.

Section 33 of the act states that: “Where there is no fire certificate in force in respect of any designated premises, the owner of the premises shall be guilty of an offence.”

Under Section 35, if the D-G is satisfied, in regard to any premises, that the risk to persons or property in the case of fire is “so serious that, until steps have been taken to reduce them to a reasonable level, the use of the premises ought to be prohibited or restricted”, he may, by a complaint, apply to the court for a prohibitory order. Upon receipt of the complaint or application, the court shall serve the appropriate notice to the owner or occupier of the premises calling upon them to show cause why a prohibitory order should be made. If cause is not shown, the court can then issue the order. The penalty for contravening the order is a fine not exceeding RM10,000, or a prison term of not more than five years and/or both.

In the religious school fire tragedy, based on what has been said by several parties, it would appear that the school building had not been issued with a fire certificate. There are circumstances indicating that the existence of “fire hazard” in the building that would constitute a valid reason for the D-G to take steps under section 8 (issue a fire hazard abatement notice). If the notice is ignored and the fire certificate has not been issued, and the risk of fire is “serious”, he could (and should) have applied for and obtained a prohibitory order under Act 341.


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Rights of a child suspect

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017

The death of 23 students and teachers of the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah tahfiz in Jalan Datuk Keramat in a fire has shocked the nation.

At the time of writing, City police Chief Comm Datuk Amar Singh has informed the public in a press conference that seven people aged between 11 and 18 have been arrested in connection with the fire.

It would appear that the suspects are mostly children, and according to the police the fire was a deliberate arson attack arising out of a disagreement between the suspects and some students from the tahfiz.

Yet, even before the press conference, alleged details and photos of the suspects were already circulated on WhatsApp and social media platforms.

Regardless of our own personal feelings about the tragedy, we must remind ourselves that at this juncture the seven teenagers are still just suspects. They are not even charged for any offence yet at the time of writing.

We must remember that most of them are still children in the eyes of the law.

The Child Act 2001, amongst others, provides for the rights of a child offender and the procedure when it comes to a criminal charge against a child.

According to the Act, a child who is alleged to have committed an offence shall not be arrested, detained or tried except in accordance with the Act.

When a child is charged in Court, the child will be charged and tried in a Court for Children. If the child is jointly charged with adults, the case may be heard by a Court other than a Court for Children, but that Court is to exercise all powers relating to the child as a Court for Children.

A Court for Children consists of a Magistrate who is assisted by two advisors, one of whom must be a woman. The role of the advisors is to inform and advise the Court for Children with respect to the child.

The Court for Children has the jurisdiction to try all offences except offences punishable by death. Unless the child suspects in the tahfiz fire case are charged with murder, it is likely that they will be charged and tried in the Court for Children.

There are also additional protections for a child offender at the stage of sentencing. The Court for Children must consider a probation report of the child. Child offenders also cannot be sentenced like an adult.

The Child Act prohibits the media when reporting about criminal investigations or prosecution of a child from publishing the photograph or reporting the name, address educational institution, or include any particulars that can lead to the identification the child.

The Act also prohibits the publication – which includes sharing on social media -  photographs of any child suspect in a criminal investigation. Anyone contravening these provisions may be charged for an offence under the Act. Those who spread the photos and details of the child suspects in the tahfiz fire case may have committed an offence by doing so.

In any society, members have a responsibility to protect the weakest amongst the ranks. Children would most certainly fall within that category.

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