When self-defence is useless defence in court

In short, just don’t carry lethal weapons around if you’re not supposed to

pic by BERNAMA

PICTURE this: You’re driving to work when all of a sudden you’re stopped by the police. Apparently, it is just one of those random checks and you are told to open your boot. For some inexplicable reason, the officer found a metal baseball bat in the boot.

Are you in trouble? Well, anyone with a sound knowledge of the law would tell you that you could be charged for possessing an object that could be used to harm others.

Crime analyst Kamal Affandi Hashim said if you’re caught in such a situation, the burden of proof would fall on you and not on the authorities or officers of the law.

“You have to justify why you carry such an object with you. For instance, you have to prove that you’re a hockey player, which would justify why you have a hockey stick with you,” he said.

So, unless you can prove to the police that you are actually a baseball player who is part of a well-known team (perhaps in Japan), you might just have to call and tell your boss that you’d be late for work.

Now, you can’t really be that honest and tell the police that you have it in your car just in case you need it for self-defense, can you?

In short, if you’re not a cricket player, yet you decided to throw in a cricket bat into your boot — just for fun, perhaps — you might have placed yourself in a precarious position without even realising it.

Clearly, guns are illegal unless you have a Carry and Use (C&U) licence under the Arms Act 1960.

As for other illegal weapons, they would fall under the Corrosive and Explosive Substances and Offensive Weapons Act 1958 (CESOWA). Let it also be known that a long list of “weapons” that can cause harm is placed under this law.

According to AskLegal.My website, which educates readers on how Malaysian law works in a simplified manner, among the most obvious would be the flick knives, any whip made from chains (why would one carry this around anyway?); a knuckle-duster; small axes (or kapak kecik, if you may); any concealed blade that can be used for cutting or stabbing; any weapons associated with any religion or belief (such as a keris): any sword or parang normally used as a weapon and not as a farming, gardening, or household tool.

“Some say that it is okay if the knife is less than six inches. Well, that’s not true either,” Kamal said.

The list is pretty long and most of the objects have pretty obvious functions. The list basically bans anything that doesn’t have a practical use other than to harm others.

“Intention, according to the law, is when there are four elements — preparation, readiness, attempt and the deed itself,” Kamal said.

The punishment under Section 7(1) for carrying a scheduled weapon is five to 10 years of imprisonment. So, can we carry anything for self-defence then? Well, apparently it is illegal to carry anything that can hurt others as a weapon, although this is where the line between legal and illegal starts to blur a little.

According to AskLegal, section 6(1) of the CESOWA states that it is illegal to carry an offensive weapon in public without lawful authority or lawful purpose. An offender is liable for five to 10 years of prison, plus whipping.

But what’s an offensive weapon anyway? AskLegal stated that under section 2, it is “…any instrument which if used as a weapon of offence is likely to cause hurt”.

The law states that one must be carrying the offensive weapon around with lawful authority or lawful purpose.

For instance, if you have a bokken (wooden katana) in your car, you need to convince the police that you practice kendo.

Chances are, by saying that you are carrying an object that can be used as a weapon for self-defence, you might have just opened your mouth and inserted your foot in it, because selfdefence might only be okay, within the limits of the law.

In short, just don’t carry lethal weapons around if you’re not supposed to. Some objects are meant to stay in the garden, but could be pretty suspicious if they are lying on the backseat of your car.

The best defence? Well, avoiding conflict is still the best solution.

Zainal Alam Kadir is the executive editor of The Malaysian Reserve.