Man walks free after judge overturns assault conviction

National 2 minutes, 43 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

A MAN who was convicted of assaulting four Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) officers walked free after the High Court acquitted all charges against him in his appeal yesterday.

The appellant, Hamzah POK Kesuma Dato Paduka Hj Ali, was charged with carrying a weapon, a knife and baton, and assaulting four NCB officers at Kg Setia ‘A’, Jalan Tarap Bau in the capital some time on August 10, 2012.

Hamzah, who was represented by Defence Counsel Rudi Lee, was previously found guilty during the trial, and sentenced by the senior magistrate to serve one year and six months in jail with three strokes of the cane.

During the appeal verdict yesterday, the presiding judge, Chief Justice Dato Seri Paduka Hj Kifrawi Dato Paduka Hj Kifli, yesterday said there was reasonable doubt as to whether the appellant was carrying any weapon when several prosecution witnesses gave different accounts on what Hamzah was holding at the time.

He said all of them allegedly saw the appellant approaching them.

“If the existence of these weapons were in doubt, then these witnesses would not be able to prove the appellant was assaulting them because the appellant was not in possession of a weapon (whether a knife or a baton) and would therefore not be able to cause fear to NCB officers, that criminal force would be used against them,” said the chief justice.

Delivering his verdict on the appeal, the chief justice noted that there were discrepancies in the prosecution witnesses’ evidence in regards to the weapons allegedly used by Hamzah.

Three witnesses only saw Hamzah holding a knife, while another two testified that the appellant was holding both the knife and baton.

There were also further discrepancies in the prosecution’s evidence on the length of the knife, he added.

Furthermore, the chief justice said several key witnesses called by the prosecution to give evidence had flaws, including the investigating officer; the diary officer on their observations and the NCB officer who lodged the police report accusing another man, “OKT Sazali”, was carrying a sharp weapon.

“Despite this flaw, the senior magistrate accepted the evidence of the prosecution witnesses,” said the chief justice.

He went on to raise a question why NCB officers alleged that Hamzah was the one who held a weapon, whether in the form of a knife or a baton.

“Could they be making mistakes about the identity of the defendant who is the appellant of this case,” added Chief Justice Dato Hj Kifrawi.

The court said Hamzah’s statement, which he said that he was holding a baton, was not tendered as evidence. There was also no mention of Hamzah holding a weapon in the first information report.

“Could the NCB officers be lying about the appellant holding a knife or a baton?

“If they are unreliable witnesses, should their evidence on the appellant allegedly assaulting the NCB officers be accepted?” asked the chief justice.

The chief justice said the senior magistrate’s findings of facts are clearly reached against the weight of the evidence.

“I, therefore, quash the conviction for carrying offensive weapons under Section 29 of the Public Order Act and the four charges of assault under Section 353 of the Penal Code and acquit the defendant,” said the chief justice.

The Brunei Times