mental duress

WHO defines ‘health’ as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.

This means that even if a person if free from some physical diseases, he can still be unhealthy if his or her mental state is not at ease and in a state of well being.

An overworked person who is in mental exhaustion therefore cannot be qualified as healthy. Similarly, a person who is under mental duress, like in the case of a person under detention ( or just as a witness to a case) who is subjected  to prolonged hours of interrogation without rest,  should be  considered unhealthy.

It is against basic human right to question a person who is unhealthy.

In the field of occupational safety, a overworked person often is the cause of accidents because an overworked mind often cannot think properly and thus can cause important judgmental errors leading to accidents.

Similarly, a person deprived of sleep and proper rest cannot be depended on to think rationally and often judgmental errors and erratic recalls may result.

Sleep deprivation , as in the case of round the clock interrogation,  is a form of mental torture that can cause a disruption of mental well beings leading to confusion and disorientation.

Taking a statement from a confused and mentally tired person is  not only unfair but also  a grave miscarriage of justice if a person is coerced into saying something untrue under such a state of duress.

Hence,  a person under interrogation must be given enough rest to ensure that he or she has a clear understanding of the questions and that he or she would be able to think clearly to answer the questions.

Which is  why in most developed countries, there are certain procedures for interrogation and prolonged questioning that may case mental duress is not allowed . There are strict guidelines  since this is considered a matter of basic human rights.

Considering all these, I think the  recent High Court judgment that questioning of witnesses should be confined to office hours should be lauded and all enforcement agencies should adhere to the spirit of this judgment .

To solve a case, there is no substitute to pain staking but thorough investigations, including using modern technology, and not by taking the easy way out and try to force a suspect or witness to say something that under normal circumstances  he or she would not have done so.


9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ken
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 15:12:29

    The Attorney-General is appealing against the High court ruling barring the MACC from conducting night interrogation a.k.a. Gestapo tactics. When will this clown realize that his duty is to protect public interest instead of BN’s interest? A most perverse A-G paid by public funds.


  2. klm
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 15:31:34

    In case if you are not aware the ruling against MACC also applies to the police. The ruling applies to the taking statements from witnesses – under the criminal procedure code clause 112.

    There is a side effect which is that police will have to stop work at 5.30 pm. If you are victim of a crime, the police can only take your statement during office hours.

    Understand what you are getting.


  3. Dr Hsu
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 15:38:55

    can any lawyer clarify on this?

    if you are a victim , you will be making a report and not interrogated as a witness.. I thought there is a subtle difference here.

    A witness is called to make a statement, whereas a victim makes a statement without being called and is on his or her own accord.


  4. klm
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 15:51:23

    Dr. Hsu. you are right to get a lawyer to answer. In my reading of the CPC, there is no such thing call interrogation, only these:

    112 – statement by witness
    113 – statement by suspect

    I was told that police don’t use 113 anymore. Hence my comment. This is going to be fun to watch this development.


  5. Ken
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 16:32:16

    Under MACC rules, a person is either questioned as a witness or a suspect. A suspect can either be under arrest or not while a witness is not under arrest. By right, a witness is free to get up and go and if he is prevented from doing so it means wrongful imprisonment. There is no doubt that MACC habitually break the rules and wrongfully imprison witnesses.


  6. Richard Loh
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 17:34:28

    More duress if the AG wins the appeal.

    Malaysian Employees Will Suffer If AG Gani Patail Wins His Appeal

    Although our employment letter or contract stated the working hours, under the job descriptions or work duties, it described and stated our “day to day” job function as well.

    Does this means that the employer, base on the “day to day” job functions as written in the LA or contract, that he can order us to work right through the night or at any hour that he pleases?


  7. Meng
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 22:22:01

    Richard Loh has a valid point whether the employer has the right to order the staff to work right through the night.

    This is happening in the corporate sector where the employees return after 8 to 9 at night and at times later. It is just ridiculous.

    We should follow US, on the dot of completing office hours, stop work. After which even the bosses would not bother you any more about the next days job. If any it will be discussed the next morning. This was my experience in US.

    There must be strict limits to working hours otherswise we are killing the employees.


  8. pilocarpine
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 18:50:21

    maybe US a good role model to us. just maybe.

    i think as much as the employee wish to have a peaceful relaxing work hours, but one really doesn’t have a choice, when one is risking losing the job, because unable to show you’re willing to go the extra mile to secure the job.

    beggars can’t be chooser. so the saying goes.


  9. disgusted
    Nov 23, 2009 @ 23:34:29

    The issue besides the hours of interrogation is mental health. Some 20 per cent of our population are mentally unstable, and these “psycho” can be anywhere. Know what I mean, sadists, wife beaters, bent on violence and even finger-trigger happy on manslaughter. They are anywhere and everywhere, maybe with long shirts and even a tie to the neck.


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