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Monday, June 5, 2017

Cop pleads ignorance on lock-up SOP at Balamurugan inquiry

A former investigating officer has pleaded ignorance over the police’s standard operating procedure (SOP) on handling detainees, in relation to S Balamurugan’s death in custody.
When queried by the Enforcement Agencies Integrity Commission (EAIC) chairperson Yaacob Md Sam, Insp Mohd Noor Husri Johari said he was aware that the lock-up facilities at the North Klang district police headquarters were not gazetted.
However, he said he was not aware that the district police chief had issued a directive that no one was to be kept there.
“There is no other suitable place,” he protested when questioned, referring to a temporary place to house detainees before bringing them for a remand hearing or sending them to the designated lock-up facility in Shah Alam.
Husri was the 19th witness at EAIC’s public inquiry into Balamurugan’s death in custody. A total of 55 witnesses are expected to be called.
Husri was an investigation officer at the North Klang police district, and was investigating Balamurugan and three others in relation to a robbery.
Balamurugan was found dead in the North Klang police district headquarters’ lock-up facilities in the wee hours of Feb 8.
Husri, who is still attached to the North Klang police, said it was only after Balamurugan’s death that he learnt of the directive.
Not told of magistrate's order
During the hearing, Husri testified that he had accompanied his parents to the National Heart Institute on the morning of Feb 7.
Therefore, he delegated the task of securing remand orders for Balamurugan and three other suspects to Sgt Muhammad Nabil Abd Manaf on that day.
He said he was unaware of magistrate Nik Nur Amalina Mat Zaidan orders for Balamurugan to be released and brought to a hospital, as Nabil had merely informed him that the remand application was rejected.
He became aware that Balamurugan was in poor health through a WhatsApp group comprising members of North Klang police's criminal investigation department.
He said he saw a photo of Balamurugan being circulated in the group.
"Dia dah macam nak mampus (He looks like he was about to die)," one of the messages read, according to Husri's testimony.
After asking, waiting, and not receiving a response through the WhatsApp group, Husri said he contacted the North Klang CID chief Norsanizam Nordin personally through the instant messaging application for further instructions.
He said he was told to rearrest Balamurugan for a different case. Another police officer, Insp Vickneswaran Poobalan, was tasked to obtain a report number to arrest Balamurugan under.
At the time, despite the magistrate's orders, Balamurugan had been brought back from court and was still held at North Klang police headquarters' lock-up.
No reason to detain him
To a question from Yaacob, Husri said he was unaware of a new standard operating procedure (SOP) introduced in 2014, which stipulates that detainees are to wear the clothes that they were wearing at the time of arrest when brought to a magistrate for a remand hearing, unless the clothing is to be kept as evidence.
"This so that the detainee can immediately go home after the hearing if they are release, instead of going back to the police station," Yaacob explained.
The EAIC chairperson also pointed out that there is no reason to detain Balamurugan at the North Klang police lock-up any further, since the magistrate had ordered his release, and Vickneswaran did not return with another case to detain Balamurugan.
When Husri was asked why he did not bring Balamurugan to a hospital, the inspector replied that only Norsanizam had the authority to release detainees.
"If I bring him to the hospital and he escapes or dies while en route, I would be held responsible," he replied.

Pathologist had previously told the inquiry that Balamurugan had died of blunt force trauma that may have been the result of beatings, which in turn aggravated an existing heart condition.
The EAIC public inquiry continues tomorrow morning.
Previously on Feb 14, Yaacob was quoted saying that the police rank-and-file are oblivious to the 2014 changes to the police lock-up rules that were meant to prevent custodial deaths.
"They (rank and file) still think police officers had the discretion to decide on whether injured suspects should be sent to a hospital," The Star quoted him as saying.- Mkini

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