Juvenile crime

A new picture. Got one of those tablet things, but am still learning how to use it.

I thank The Star for publishing my letter (the subject of the previous post) yesterday, but I am appalled by a clinical psychologist’s opinion that Aminulrasyid Amzah is to blame for having had himself shot and killed by the police.

I wonder at any society that holds a minor culpable for his own death at the hands of the police and yet insists on the calling itself a “society”. The argument that Aminulrasyid is at fault for his own death is logically identical to the argument that babies, discarded by their mothers, are to blame for having been born; or that abused children are responsible for putting themselves in positions where they can be tortured.

The responsibility for a minor’s welfare does not lie solely within the province of an individual parent—all adults have a moral duty, in a civilised society, to care for all young people who are, or might be put, in harm’s way. This is why children are “minors” and do not have adult rights.

To say then that “it is not my business”, when we hear the screams of an abused child next door, is to aid and abet  a crime. Likewise, to witness a child do wrong and yet do nothing is a fundamental denial that we have any moral obligation towards children in society: and likewise it denies that they have any right to social protection.

Unlike the rest of us the police are charged by society with the active  fulfilment of this duty. People volunteer to be policemen and women. They are not conscripted. The law exists to protect, and as its enforcers, the main task of the police is precisely that. Protect. I often hear the argument that those seeking greater accountability of the police are malicious spirits trying to spread chaos in society: by questioning police actions, we damage their morale and cause them to hesitate in shooting criminals. How many times do we have to go round this circle? Suspects are not criminals until proven so in court, and shooting them dead deprives them of the right to be heard.

The whole point of criminal law is to determine culpability. The police are empowered only to apprehend suspects of a crime, not to determine guilt, which is the business of the legal system. With that in mind, the statement made by Dr Teoh Hsien Jin yesterday not only flies in the face reason, it actively promotes exactly the same kind of shoddy thinking that gets us into moral difficulty in the first place:

KUALA LUMPUR: It is clear that 14-year-old Aminulrasyid Amzah was at fault in his shooting, leading him to being accidentally shot by police who were only discharging their duties, a clinical psychologist said. [“It is clear“? Is it the duty of a policeman to shoot suspects dead without reference to the law?]

Assoc Prof Dr Teoh Hsien Jin said the situation was getting out of proportion and that the public had overlooked the most important issue, which was that of a minor driving a car without a driving licence. [The most important issue is the use of disproportionate force, in this case lethal force, in the apprehension of a suspect. Does Dr Teoh mean to say that driving a car without a licence is a dangerous crime, on par with armed robbery, necessitating the discharge of a weapon?]

He said that as far as the law was concerned, such an act was an offence. [Yes, it is an offence. But if Dr Teoh seeks to argue law, then he should ask himself what the penalty is for driving without a licence, determine the appropriate use of force in its enforcement, and compare that to what happened to Aminulrasyid. Also, does Dr Teoh condone the shooting of ANYONE who drives without a licence and panics when confronted by armed policemen?]

“The crime rate in Selangor is worrying and the police have taken the necessary steps to reduce crime in the state by putting more men on patrol to react to any perceived threat. [Aminulrasyid was not a criminal. He was at best a suspect in a traffic violation. The police do not have the ability to determine guilt.]

“A lot of violent crime takes place after midnight and a speeding car pursued by a group of motorcyclists fits the scenario perfectly,” said Dr Teoh who is the Head of the School of Natural Health and Sciences in Sunway University College. [Fits what scenario, exactly? This is purely conjectural, and I can conjecture the opposite thing: that the motorcyclists are Mat Rempits intending to assault and kill the driver. I should then advise the police to shoot all motorcyclists appearing to pursue a car, whether or not they are actually doing so. In fact, they should just shoot all motorists as they’re all potential criminals.]

Dr Teoh, a former journalist, said the usual procedure for policemen in a patrol car or at roadblocks would be to pull a suspicious car over and shine a torchlight into it. [Yes, but what constitutes a “suspicious car”? I have been stopped in this fashion a number of times, but on what grounds? I am unable to tell what “suspicious behaviour” is, as (un)defined by Dr Teoh and the police; so if I am shot as a result, am I to blame?”]

“But the policemen may not have had the chance to do that in Aminulrasyid’s case as the minor sped off, which led to the police firing at the speeding car.

“Police on shifts are normally armed with automatic firearms because they do not know who or what they will be up against. You just have to react to dangerous situations. [Is a fleeing car “a dangerous situation”? Does Dr Teoh mean to say that it is right to open fire on anyone reacting negatively to a bunch of armed men trying to detain a vehicle in the middle of the night?]

“When they opened fire, it is likely that one stray bullet could have hit him. In the dark, they were probably shooting to stop the car,” said Dr Teoh, who was also a Territorial Army officer. [This is again pure conjecture and is akin to pulling a rabbit out of one’s arse. Unfortunately the principal witness in this case can’t testify because he is dead. It is likely. They were probably shooting to stop the car. Do any of these conditional statements demonstrate with clarity that Aminulrasyid is at fault? Or does the fact that I say “an apple might be blue” equal proof that there is at least one blue apple in the world?]

He said he sympathised with the Inspector-General of Police who had come under fire from various quarters for threatening to pull his men off the streets following a public outcry over the incident. [The Inspector-General was behaving like an adolescent throwing a tantrum. Yes, he was “under fire” but not by any means enough. Perhaps we should shoot him in the head.]

“They are already overworked and underpaid and politicising the matter does not help. It is only making them more frustrated and angry,” he said. [Overworked? Maybe. Underpaid? Maybe. What happened then to the RM12.4 billion we gave them? Politicising this matter has so far been the ONLY way to draw sufficient attention to it.]

The inescapable conclusion of Dr Teoh’s argument is that as Aminulrasyid had broken the law by driving without a licence (as he was underaged), he was therefore solely to be blamed for having been shot. Guilt therefore lies with the victim; and if this is to be a general rule, it is therefore also true that ANY child in any circumstance must be blamed for suffering the same fate.

I draw your attention again to the fact that minors are held by the law not to be responsible for their actions because they are deemed to lack sufficient understanding of the consequences of their actions. (There is some controversy surrounding the age of criminal responsibility, based on the presumption of doli incapax (incapable of crime). In the UK this is defined as age 10 and below, 14 in Australia (and no charge at all can be brought against a suspect aged 10 and under); and trial in an adult court generally takes place at 18 and above. Malaysia’s case is another story, for another day.)

Dr Teoh’s argument however negates the intention of minority protection. Actually it negates the very basis of criminal law as a whole if we can justify using lethal force on unarmed or otherwise non-threatening suspects, regardless of how old they are.

For all I know Dr Teoh might be a first-rate clinical psychologist, but if I were to subject him to the same set of assumptions he has subjected Aminulrasyid, then I should very easily conclude that he would have us believe that wayward children are criminals deserving rough justice in the middle of the night—that Aminulrasyid’s principal crime was to have been a child.

And that would be a terrible advertisement for Sunway University College where he works.

But I do not make the same formal assumptions. I offer Dr Teoh something he appears unwilling to offer others; and that is the benefit of an open mind.

8 thoughts on “Juvenile crime

  1. Well police didn’t have any way to know that the person who drove the car was not a criminal, much less a children. Let’s say if the driver was a criminal, and police didn’t shoot that time and the criminal escaped. People will then blame the police for “letting” the criminal ran away.
    AFAIK, there’s quite a number of cases in which police were successful in solving criminal cases because the criminal group involved were arrested, or died in car chases, some of them involved gunshots (particularly in the latter cases).

  2. Absolutely brilliant argument. The best fact is that a PHD can’t see what most of us without PHD can. Just pure common sense. I applaud your great effort in dissecting this minutely. I am also sadden by the state of our leaders, academicians in protecting the innocent and championing for the guilty… Great review. Keep it up.

  3. in the first place, in the first place, 15 year old kids should not be out roaming the streets at 2am in the morning, driving around in a car which is not theirs, & moreso driving around without a license, in the first place. the parents are to blame. do u know what your kid is doing right now & where your kid is right now, as u read this?

  4. I hope Dr Teoh gets to read this. It certainly is a much-needed mind opener.
    I wonder if Mahen Lee read the earlier piece on this blog.
    Lucid, logical and most of all, civilised points of view (even of the one filling in the vacuum in the IGP’s head).
    Thanks – Read with great appreciation.

    • Sudah beberapa hari saya mengingatkan si bungsu iaitu anak kecil saya yang baru habis SPM supaya jangan balik jauh-jauh malam sehingga awal pagi (kul 2pagi).
      Peristiwa Aminulrasyid Amzah amat menghantui kotak fikiran saya.
      Baru(2.30 pagi) sekejap tadi dia balik.

      Saya: Dik(dik tu dialah panggilan manja saya kepadanya) dah banyak kali mak bagitau jangan balik lambat-lambat. Sekarang ni dah dua orang kena tembak polis.

      Adik: Orang pegi kedai Rahmat (kedai mamak 24 jam tu. Dia selalu tengok bola di situ) je. Orang bukan jalan kaki.

      Saya: Tu yang kena tembak tu tak jalan kaki juga. Naik kete dengan motor pun.

      Untuk pengetahuan kesemua anak lelaki saya (3 orang semuanya) tidak dibenarkan mengambil lesen apa-apa pun sehingga keperluan( iaitu apabila mereka masuk IPTA/IPTS). Ini saya dah sepakat dengan abahnya. Jika mereka kecek juga mereka kena beri alasan dengan bos(abahnya).

      Berbalik kepada conversation di atas. Macam mana cadangan supaya perkara yang terjadi kepada arwah Aminulrasyid boleh dielakkan? Seperti budak baik lain sedikit kedegilan mesti ada pada anak kesayangan saya ni(bukan senang oi, mengandungkan dia kurang 4 minggu nak cukup 9 bulan. Nak lahir pun kena vakum. Kalau lambat tak tengok dunia lah). Membuktikan mereka adalah normal.

      1. Malam ini apabila dia sudah tidur saya ikat kaki tangannya supaya dia tidak dapat keluar ke mana-mana. Tak boleh nanti saya akan di dakwa penderaan kepada kanak-kanak kerana umurnya belum 18 tahun.
      2. Saya kurung dia dalam satu bilik. Pun tak boleh juga atas alasan seperti di atas.
      3. Munkin minta sokongan YB-YB bawa ke Parleman (ini baru kita boleh kata dipolitikkan) supaya ditiadakan kedai 24 jam yang menyiarkan bola ke apa-apa jelah. Pastikan kedai-kedai itu tutup pada pukul 8 malam. Budak-budak pun tak keluar malam dan senang kejutkan mereka untuk sembahyang subuh.
      4. Kalau perlu ada juga takut-takut pendapatan cukai negara berkurang(takut orang kerajaan tak dapat bonos). Kalau gitu adakan kawalan seperti rukun tetangga untuk mengawal budak-budak yang tengah naik dan nakal sikit-sikit ni. Bila nampak mereka keluar kita kejar ramai-ramai dan hantarkan mereka balik rumah.
      Senang polis pun tak payah ronda lagi. Mereka tumpu siasatan jenayah besar-besar sahaja. Seperti menangkap orang yang ceramah politik kat masjid, surau dan sebagainya.

      5. Lepas tu TV nanti tanya tahukah anda di mana anak anda berada? Kita pun boleh jawab.

      The point is we are not pointing who is at fault cos we know everybody is at fault. Pointing will not undo what is done.

      I agree Aminulrasyid is a minor but we cannot sewenang-wenang accuse that the parents are at fault. As the malay saying goes “Bersangka baik” but as the example I told earlier he may be a good but stuborn boy like any other growing inquisitif children. Only parents know the meaning of loving your own child. Even if the child is at fault at the time of the said incidents do you think the parent should give the police a pat on the shoulder and thank them for shooting their son who is braking the law?

      Of course our first reaction what big sin that he had done that he is shot dead? Did he kill anybody? Did he rob anybody and kill somebody during the action? Did he rape somebody’s daughter that he deserved to be defamed in such a way?

      Come on if you shot him accidently admit it. To err is human. We can accept that but do not creat stories that too rediculous to be accepted by our fikiran yang masih waras ini. Do not under estimate our inteligence.

      When you dicover the mistake of killing somebody’s love ones, the first thing to do is to cry with the tears streaming down the cheek and ask for forgiveness from the family. Of course the family will feel like killing you, that is normal. If they are true muslim they will forgive you. Worst come to worst you may get away with a few years sentence and the public will respect the police.

      I wonder if Aminulrasyid’s family call him adik as I call my own youngest son. Cannot bear the thought of thinking him going in such a way even when he sometime not taking my advice and agonised my feeling. Children sometimes think we worry unnecessirily. Sometimes looks like they do not appreciate our love but does this means that we should not feel very, very sad for losing him in such a way. As I told earlier are we suppose to give the police a pat for getting rid of him for us? Does he deserve this defamation when all the while he is not a manace the society yet. Because other youngsters are caught doing all the anti society activities and so the police have the right to classify him as such to justify their mistake.

      My father(God bless his soul) was a good cop. But this does make me blind to the wrong doings of other cops. They are human who make mistake too. And they are not above the law.

  5. Salam Puan Rajie. Terima kasih banyak kerana sudi mengulas isu yang menyedihkan ini. Komentar Puan Rajie amat merangsangkan, lagipun munasabah dan menghuraikan alangkah mustahak isu ini patut dibincang dan dibidas sepenuh-penuhnya oleh masyarakat umum.

    Oleh kerana masyarakat tidak secukupnya rela menimbang implikasi cadangan2 yang telah dikemukakan dalam media massa, seperti kesanggupan untuk menyalahkan ibubapa2, yang saya rasa membentuk sebab pertama kerajaan lebih cenderung kepada keputusan “sentak lutut”.

    Saya harap lebih banyak pelawat kepada blog ini akan membaca dan meneliti komentar Puan. Terima kasih ya!

  6. Refer to my earlier conversation about my youngest son always coming back late at night or early morning. Let him enjoy this freedom while he can because in a few months time when the new semester open he will continue his study and he had given his promise to me. Yes, he is not allowed to take his motorbike licence. So he friends fetch him and send back by their own motorbike or cars because they already got their licence and they are no more minors.I always remind him of the importance of not breaking the law and not to get into trouble with the police.
    Anyway he only go to the nearest 24hr mamak restaurant and we always find him there when the two of us (me and my husband decide to have midnight supper.
    But he did mention sometimes its the police who are troubling them.
    Sometimes his friend was caught with expired roadtax which the friend forgot to renew and the pak chik polis doesn’t mind rm 5.00 duit rokok cos its the only cash they have. Being students they don’t earn a lot of money yet. They still depend on the parents for their pocket money.
    I am telling this just show that we are human and we cannot pass judgement as it please us. If we hurt people today, someday we will be hurt real bad

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