AGC urged to review case of disabled man sent to prison for attempted suicide

03 Feb 2020 / 17:16 H.

PETALING JAYA: Human rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) has urged the Attorney Generals Chambers (AGC) to review a case involving a disabled man who was sentenced to prison for six months for attempted suicide.

LFL director Mellinda Sasidaran said the disabled man was not represented by a lawyer during the court proceeding and that the prosecution was conducted by a senior police officer instead of a deputy public prosecutor.

“We refer to the news reports that a person with disability in Kuala Terengganu was convicted under section 309 of the Penal Code for attempting to commit suicide and sentenced to six months imprisonment,” she said in statement today.

“In the interest of the accused and the larger public interest, we therefore call upon the Attorney General to immediately review the case and refer the matter to the High Court so that the conviction and sentence can be quashed.”

Section 309 of the Penal Code states that whosoever attempts suicide, and carries out any act toward the commission of such an offence, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or a fine, or both.

Mellinda said the judgment to prosecute must be exercised properly in accordance with the circumstances of the case. She raised an announcement by the government last October, to decriminalise attempted suicide cases in which the proposal is being studied by the AGC.

“We are perplexed as to how this case was prosecuted and tried when it is clear there is no common good for the public to be served in prosecuting a person who is clearly in dire need of assistance ... such travesty can only worsen his situation,” she added.

On Sunday, it was reported that the disabled man, Mohamad Sani Isa, 38, was sentenced to six months in jail after he tried to hang himself with a nylon rope from a ceiling at a house in Kuala Nerus on Dec 23 last year. His sentence is to commence from the day of his arrest, on Dec 23.

According to the report, Sani was depressed. Prior to his sentence, the court had ordered him to undertake an evaluation at a psychiatric hospital in Tampoi, Johor.

In response, Law Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong said in a statement: “Attempted suicide or any form of self-harm for that matter is a mental health condition and must be medically treated.

“These individuals must be provided necessary access to mental healthcare and be cared for as patients, not prisoners.”

Liew said the AGC has been actively reviewing how an amended bill can be holistically drawn up and undertaken by the government.

“There must be first be sustainable and viable mechanisms in place for these individuals to access mental healthcare before the law is amended to decriminalise suicide.

“What exactly these mechanisms will be and how they will operate is being studied at the moment,” he said.

On Dec 30, the AGC held engagement sessions with various stakeholders to find an alternative mechanism more suitable and effective in tackling mental health cases.

Liew looks forward to the tabling of an amended bill pertaining to said law at the Dewan Rakyat by middle of this year.

email blast