KUCHING: The on-going campaign by the state government and swift action by the police have encouraged more victims of sexual assault to come forward and seek justice,.
State Criminal Investigation Department chief Datuk Dev Kumar said he believed that the role played by (State Welfare, Community Development, Women, Family and Childhood Development Minister) Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah and her ministry in organising programmes and urging victims to come forward was a factor.
“The seriousness of the police (in probing the cases) and the deterrent sentences meted by the courts is also a contributing factor which has helped to develop a sense of confidence among the victims to come forward.
“We also noticed more members of the public, who are aware of rape cases surrounding them, taking charge by bringing the victim to the police station,” Dev told the New Straits Times.
He cited the case involving a 14-year-old girl, who was forced into prostitution by her mother and her karaoke centre operator employer.
Dev said the teenager was brought to the police station by the village chief, ending her misery, on Oct 8.
He stressed that Sarawak police would investigate every sexual related crime, especially if it involved children, without delay.
Such commitment, said Dev, had been relayed to all investigation officers in the state tasked with handling such cases.
“The suspects must be arrested soonest, preferably on the same day when a report is lodged. The Investigation Papers (IPs) must be completed few days before remand on the suspect expires.
"This is to help the Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) to decide whether to charge the suspect or continue to remand for a more solid case.
“As can be seen from the many cases recently, a person accused of committing sexual offences would be charged in court within two weeks of their arrest and/or before their remand expires,” he said.
Dev, however, admitted his team also faced challenges despite their commitment to complete investigation within a fortnight or earlier.
Citing the Lawas rape case, Dev said there was no female investigation officer in the district.
“Hence, I had deployed a D11 team (Sexual Crimes Unit) from the State Police Headquarters here headed by a woman officer to Lawas to oversee the investigation, especially interviewing the victim and recording statement from her,” he said.
Not all rape cases, he said, especially statutory rape could be dealt with expeditiously. In cases where the victim was pregnant, the police would have to wait for her to deliver the child for a DNA test to be conducted.
“The suspect meantime would be released on bail pending the paternity test. We don't want to face a situation where we jump the gun, charge the suspect and later find the DNA test shows otherwise,” he said.
Dev said Sarawak currently had a well-placed mechanism to handle sexual crimes.
“From the moment a report is received, everyone in the system knows their role including the police, the ministry, hospital and Welfare Department.
“Women non-governmental organisations also play a key role and have been very supportive of the police. We are encouraged by their support,” he said.