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Clamour grows for sex offenders registry

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 7: As serial rapist Selva Kumar Subbiah arrived in Malaysia today after serving a 24-year jail term in Canada, the clamour grew for safeguards against him.

For, as groups and individuals calling for government action noted, Selva has been reported by the Canadians involved in his case to be unremorseful and unable or unwilling to take responsibility for his actions.

Some lawyers and others want the government to follow the example of the United States in handling sexual offenders who look likely to repeat their crime if given the chance.

Criminal lawyer Farhan Maaruf said the US system was one of the best ways in the world for dealing with sex offenders, and was different from the approach of many European countries.

“The US takes deterrent and preventive measures while the Europeans prefer to wait and see,” he said.

The US way of keeping released sexual offenders in check entailed the setting up of a registry for them.

The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act requires the released criminals to register themselves with the community in which they live.

The Act stipulates that the community has a right to know that it has a sexual offender in the neighbourhood, and the person has to inform the authorities if he moves to a new place.

Other lawyers who agree said that the authorities should use the electronic monitoring device provided under POCA (Prevention of Crime Act) 1959 and POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) 2015.
Lawyer Mohd Kamarul Arifin Mohd Wafa understood that POCA and POTA were to fight gangsterism and terrorism, but said they should be extended to include the effort to stop serial rape “especially if this is what society is asking for”.

The government itself seems to be leaning towards the creation of a sex offenders registry.

The Women, Family and Community Development said in a media statement on Sunday that there was an urgent need to speed up the creation of such a registry to monitor the movements of convicted sex criminals after their release.

Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed had also called for such a registry for people to know if such an offender was residing in their neighbourhood.

Although Selva Kumar was charged with assaulting 30 women, a lawyer for the Canadian Border Services Agency said the 56-year-old was believed to have attacked betweeen 500 and 1,000 women.

A retired Toronto police officer from the sexual assault squad has said  that he believed Selva Kumar would “reoffend”.

While not disputing the appraisal of the Canadian authorities, experts here said that Malaysia should carry out its own forensic risk assessment on Selva Kumar to get a clearer idea about how to handle the serial rapist.

Criminologist Dr Geshina Ayu Mat Saat from Universiti Sains Malaysia said: “We need psychological and medical assessments of Selva Kumar as well as his victims profile (the types of people he has attacked).

“We need to make our own assessments because of differences in culture and social norms as well as baseline data on which assessments are formed.”

Forensic criminologist from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Dr Mohammad Rahim Kamaluddin agreed that such assessments should be carrried out, saying that they would reveal the character traits of the criminal and help in handling him.

Concern over the prospect of a serial rapist being “set loose” in society runs deep despite assurances of Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar who said that Selva Kumar would be monitored “from a distance” although there was no specific law to regulate the movements of ex-prisoners like the Perak-born man, who is the third of four siblings in a family of educationists.

Health Psychologist Dr Hariyati Shahrima Abdul Majid from the International Islamic University Malaysia is among those not fully satisfied with the assurances.

She said there should be “systematic close monitoring” of Selva Kumar to keep women safe from him.

Some people like a 26-year-old economist from Penang are somewhat in a dilemma about the situation.

“I know that everyone should be given a second chance but I’m afraid for my safety, especially since he (Selva Kumar) is reported to be not sorry for what he has done,” said Ana (not her real name).

“I think he should be carefully assessed so that he can be properly monitored.” — Bernama

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