How Malaysian Anti-Corruption body question suspects and witnesses

PETALING JAYA - How about a cup of tea first? Officers of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) are likely to ask the question before interviewing suspects and witnesses.

Showing consideration and making those being questioned comfortable is part of the new standard operating procedure (SOP) adopted by the MACC to improve its image, which has been dented by several controversies in the past.

Besides offering a cuppa, several other measures have also been introduced to improve the commission's success rate in solving cases.

They include gathering comprehensive information and preparation before interviews, achieving rapport with suspects or witnesses, taking account of their statements and ending the sessions with "airtight" testimonies.

This new method is part of the "Planning and preparation, Engage and explain, Account, Closure, Evaluation", otherwise known as the PEACE technique, practised by law-enforcement agencies in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The PEACE model is aimed at stopping suspects or witnesses from being bullied or coerced and encouraging them to open up and provide information voluntarily.

Since it was implemented two years ago, the MACC has recorded a 100 per cent rate of evidence gathered being accepted by the courts.

The new process is in line with the implementation of the Video Interview Rooms (VIR) in all MACC offices and branches nationwide to enhance accountability.

MACC investigation director Datuk Mustafar Ali said 300 investigating officers had already been trained by two former United Kingdom police officers to use the PEACE method.

"We aim to train all 450 officers by next year. The objective of using the method is to ensure that evidence gathered during interviews is 'airtight' and free of any unfairness.

"Our aim is to gather as much information and evidence without any coercion or inducement," he told The Star yesterday, adding that no MACC case had been thrown out since the method was introduced.

He said other countries using the same method had also recorded a similar rate of success, adding that training investigators in the PEACE method was part of the MACC's Interview Technique Sustainability Plan (ITSP).

"We have shortlisted and trained 35 officers to become trainers of the method. Top management staff will also be roped in," he said.

Mustafar said the MACC pioneered the use of VIR in Malaysia, adding that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Academy (MACA) had two.

"With video evidence, no one can accuse officers of forcing a witness or suspect to make statements as interviews are recorded.

"Even a lawyer can enter the room and observe the interview session. It is in compliance with Human Rights regulations," he said adding that some enforcement agencies were also keen to follow the MACC's example.

Musafar said that beyond 2014, the commission would use the MACC PEACE SOP, incorporating the PEACE method, the American Reid methodology and the MACC's past experiences in interviewing techniques.

"Every new recruit will have to go through the MACC's PEACE training," he said.