Crime & Courts

Magistrate rejects guilty plea, orders stalker's case to go to trial

SHAH ALAM: The magistrate's court today ordered the case of part-time events management consultant Mohamad Safiq Rosli who was charged with stalking a woman photographer by repeatedly harrassing her on social media last year, to go to trial.

Magistrate Sasha Diana Sabtu ruled that the case must go to trial despite the 37-year-old's guilty plea which was conditional on Dec 15.

"The court cannot accept the accused's guilty plea. I need to proceed with a trial.

"Do you understand?" she told Mohamad Safiq who stood in the dock.

He replied that he understood.

The magistrate fixed Jan 17 for one-day trial where she will also deliver the sentencing.

Mohamad Safiq is the first person to be charged under Section 507A(1) of the Penal Code - a new provision - which was passed in Parliament and came effect in May.

The new provision reads stalking as repeated acts of harassment intended or likely to cause distress, fear, or alarm to any person. It carries a maximum three years jail, a fine, or both if found guilty.

Deputy public prosecutor Zilfinaz Abbas told the court that three prosecution witnesses will be called to testify, including victim Acacia Mardiana Daud via an online proceeding.

Mohamad Safiq's defence counsel, Fithril Hakim Ab Jalil, had asked for the trial to be resolved in a day and for sentencing to be made once proceedings concluded.

Jason Wee, who was holding a watching brief for Acacia, requested for proceeding to be held online as his client, as of today, was overseas and to consider her wellbeing and safety.

Earlier, Zilfinaz told the court that it did not want Mohamad Safiq's admission of guilt to enable him to use defence of insanity to escape jail and fine under Section 347 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

Section 347 of the Criminal Procedure Code reads judgment of acquittal on grounds of mental disorder.

She said the burden was on the accused to prove his insanity as provided under Section 84 of the Penal Code for the act of a person of unsound mind.

"In this case today, there was only the report from Hospital Bahagia Ulu Kinta. It was only proof of medical test for insanity and not legal test of insanity.

"Therefore, the legal test of insanity is unproven so this case must go on full trial.

"However, if the court accepts his guilty plea without proceeding to a full trial, please record our preliminary objection," she told the court.

She said there were some paragraphs in the psychiatric report that said that Mohamad Safiq was of unsound mind when he committed the offence but he was fit for trial and also fit to plea.

In mitigation, Fithril said his client and his family wanted the court to invoke Section 347 as well as Section 348 for him to be confined in a psychiatric hospital at the pleasure of a state ruler.

He said this was because they acknowledged that the accused was unwell.

"This serves justice better than putting him in prison because this case is now specific to the complainant, Acacia.

"I think Acacia will say she prefers Mohamad Safiq to get treatment and he, himself, wants to get treated.

"Justice will not be served if he goes to prison. If he goes to a hospital, there will be chance for reform and rehabilitation whereas it is highly unlikely for him to get treatment or counselling in prison.

"I should be submitting that he should be freed but the family wants the court to send him to a mental institution for the sake of the public, himself and Acacia.

"Let us be clear on this. This is not an attempt way of us to let go of his culpability," he said.

Mohamad Safiq had been in prison since despite being offered bail.

He was charged with repeatedly harassing Acacia through the Twitter application under the account name "@sopert99" by sending three communications which expressed his feelings for the woman on her Twitter account "@ShaFoShizzle" which was read at a house here.

He was alleged to have committed the offence between 1.40am last July 15 and 5.58pm on July 21 despite knowing that the act was likely to cause, distress, fear or alarm to her.

It was reported that police confirmed receiving report of online sexual harassment faced by the victim in 2018.

Through an Instagram post, the victim had shared her experience of being occasionally sexually harassed by a person named Shafiq Rosli, including exposing the lewd messages he had sent her.

She claimed to have frequently received obscene messages and videos which showed the accused acting indecently.

The accused was believed to have started harassing the victim since 2016 by leaving comments on her blog.

He was said to begun stalking the victim since 2017 and had followed her to a fast food restaurant, to her house and to the United Kingdom (UK) at one point in time.

The victim had on numerous attempts told him to stop harassing her, but he created over 30 social media accounts over the years which he used to continue harassing her.

The situation escalated when the stalker followed her to London and the UK authorities had arrested him.

He was slapped with harassment-related charges in court but he had fled the UK and had not had his day in court.

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