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The legal system in Malaysia is based on a set of written and unwritten laws. Among the written are: the Federal Constitution together with the constitutions of the 13 states comprising the Federation, legislations enacted by the Parliament and State Assemblies, and delegated or subsidiary legislation made by bodies under powers conferred on them by Acts of Parliament or State Assemblies. The unwritten laws are comprised of the principles of English Common law adapted to local circumstances, case law and local customary law; Muslim law is also an important source of law applicable only to the Muslim population and administered by a separate system of courts.

The judicial system

The Malaysian Constitution provides for the exercise of powers by the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. By virtue of Act 121 (1) of the Federal Constitution judicial power in the Federation is vested on two High Courts of Coordinate jurisdiction and status namely the High Court of Malaya and the High Court of Borneo and the inferior courts. The Federal Court with its principal registry in Kuala Lumpur is the Supreme Court in the country. The head of the judiciary is the Lord President of the Federal Court and he exercises direct supervision over all courts. In the hierarchy of courts the lowest is the Penghulus Court. A Penghulu is a headman appointed by a state government. The criminal jurisdiction of a Penghulus Court is limited to the trial of offences of a minor nature which can be adequately punished by a fine not exceeding $25.00. The subordinate courts in Malaysia include the Juvenile Courts, Magistrates Courts and the Sessions Courts.

The courts can pronounce on the legality or otherwise of executive acts of government. They can pronounce on the validity or otherwise of any law passed by parliament and they can pronounce on the meaning of any provision of the constitution.

Law enforcement

The nation's police force is headed by an Inspector General of Police, his Deputy and four Directors of Divisions, viz: the Criminal Investigation Department, The Special Branch, Security and Public Order, and Management. The Inspector General of Police is responsible to the Minister of Home Affairs. The police force performs the duties of preventing crime, protection of the general welfare of the people, investigating and detecting crime, identifying and apprehending offenders, and prosecuting criminals. The force also has to perform the onerous task of jungle operations, tracking down undesirable elements, investigating the smuggling of drugs, arms, and other contraband items.

The police and the prison service in the country have established a very close working relationship. Such a relationship is clearly outlined in both the Prison Ordinance of 1952 and the Police Act of 1967. These two laws establish the powers and relative duties and responsibilities of the officers in the two services. This clearly establishes the fact that not only are the functions interchangeable, the authority and relative power vested in one can and is exercised by the other.

Crime prevention strategies

A number of specific measures have been initiated in recent years in the area of crime prevention. Basically these are in two main categories -- those which come within the enlightened police functions and those requiring community involvement.

The role of the Royal Malaysia Police - preventive measures: A combined proactive -- situational approach has been adopted by the Royal Malaysia Police to prevent and control crime in Malaysia. Circumstances which go towards constituting a crime risk are constantly evaluated and measures are taken to remove or at least reduce that risk. Police action covers every type of action that can be legally and fairly taken to prevent or reduce the opportunity for crime. Some of the preventive and enforcement measures undertaken by the Royal Malaysia Police are:

- Target-hardening related activities -- such as advising banks, financial institutions, goldsmiths and other commercial sectors, to upgrade their security systems and securing their premises from being potential targets of criminal attacks. Members of the public are also advised via the mass-media to take steps to minimise opportunities for the commission of crime; - Improving the image of the police through improved police-public relations. - School information program -- police officers are assigned to schools not only to investigate any crimes involving students but also as guest speakers. These officers are from time to time called upon by the school to deliver talks on the various components of the criminal justice system and on specific criminal matters.

Community involvement in crime prevention: Community involvement is a necessary crime prevention ingredient. It has been acknowledged as the most influential component of the Criminal Justice System in Malaysia. It has been recognised that because of its pervasiveness people can make a significant difference in the prevention and detection of crime and in the treatment and rehabilitation of offenders. There are voluntary organisations, societies, clubs and associations that have responded positively to prevention initiatives and other activities incidental thereto.

Specific programs in this area are: The formation of Vigilante Corps; one of the objectives of this corps is to assist in the maintenance of peace and security in outlying rural areas.

The Neighbourhood Watch Group; this program aims at: - fostering closer relationships among the multi-racial communities and instilling a sense of responsibility among them to maintain the peace that is prevailing in the community; - strengthening the relationship between the government and the people based on mutual respect, trust and confidence; - promoting good citizenship and unity among the multi-racial communities within a neighbourhood through good neighbourliness.

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