KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 18, 2016:

The Women, Family and Community Development Ministry will be coming down hard on parents who display acts of negligence towards their children by increasing the punishment stated under the Child Act 2001.

The punishment would not only apply to serious cases of child negligence but also in cases where children are left forgotten in their parents’ car, cases when a child gets away from their parents unsupervised in a public area, all of which result in death or injury, or even cases where children are left alone in their homes, unsupervised.

“Whether intentional or unintentional, a child needs to be protected at all times. Sometimes, children die. This is when a child is left without supervision.

“There is a possibility that some (parents) are careless and the child falls through the escalator. Parents don’t give enough attention.

“The law is coming to make sure you don’t do that any more,” said Dr Waitchalla Suppiah, the ministry’s policy division secretary, at a media briefing on the Child Act 2001 amendments at the Malaysian Social Institute (ISM) here this morning.

According to proposed amendments, negligence would carry a fine of not more than RM50,000, an increase from RM10,000, or a jail sentence of not more than 20 years, up from 19 years, or both.

Also newly proposed is the mandatory community service order that is proposed for all offences under the Act.

However, the ministry clarified that in the cases stated above, prosecution and punishment were only possible if a police report was made.

Zahidah Zakaria, legal adviser to the ministry, explained that the procedure included a police report that first needed to be made, after which an investigation will take place, followed by prosecution and sentencing.

“That’s why with the amendments, we encourage the public to provide information. Of course, in cases where a child falls from an apartment balcony, we take into account the suffering of parents.

“But we need to take into account society that needs to take care of children.”

She also explained that in some cases, where such accidents were caught on video and made viral, the Welfare Department would make a report for investigations to be done.

Zahidah was also asked by a reporter if it was possible for working parents who left their children, aged below 18, at home alone to be prosecuted for negligence as the Act includes provisions of action against parents who left their children unsupervised.

She explained further that it depended on the case, whereby if there was adequate supplies and food, it may not become a case of negligence.

“The court will determine what would be within the context of inadequate supervision.

“We understand that currently in Malaysia’s scenario, both parents usually work but it’s not right to leave your children without sufficient supervision.”

When asked if the punishment was too harsh, especially in cases where a child might have run off in a mall and in a split second fallen to their death entirely by accident, Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim said it was eventually left to the courts to decide.

She also explained that criticisms had been hurled at the ministry for the lack of action and now the minsitry was just enhancing provisions against negligence that already existed.

“Now, they will probably criticise why the harsh punishment. But it will be up to the courts eventually.”

In addition to that, she said in the current scenario whereby prosecution and action were only possible if a police report ensued, better awareness was needed by the public.

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