by Choo Dee Wei
Published July 3, 2015
The name of this legislation in Malaysia is quite a mouthful. One needs to draw several breaths to read it out in its entirety. It is the Corrosive and Explosive Substances and Offensive Weapons Act 1958. As there is no catchy abbreviations given to it yet, this author shall make an attempt. Here goes: CESOW.
CESOW is relatively short, it has only 12 sections. So why is CESOW noteworthy? It is for the simple reason that its wordings under Section 6 (1) empowers the police to arrest almost anyone who happens to carry an object that may be used as a weapon which is likely to cause hurt.
This article will cover the offence of carrying an offensive weapon as per Section 6 (1) as this author notes that there quite a number of cases being brought to Court under this section.
However, for purposes of completeness, CESOW actually covers 4 kinds of items:-
Scheduled Weapon; and
Corrosive Substance means any of the acids and substances specified in the 1st Schedule of CESOW and shall be deemed to include all substances which are capable on application to the human body of causing hurt through corrosive action. It includes nitric acid, ammonia and hydrochloric acid.
Explosive Substance includes any materials for making any explosive substance and any bomb, grenade, apparatus, machine, implement or material used or intended to be used or adapted for causing or aiding in causing any explosion in or with any explosive substance and any part of such bomb, grenade, apparatus, machine or implement.
Scheduled Weapon means any offensive weapon stated in the 2nd Schedule of CESOW which includes items such as flick knife, gravity knife, knuckleduster, kapak kecil, cross bow and Taser.
The substances and weapons above are self-explanatory and fairly descriptive. Problems arise when it comes to Offensive Weapon and Section 6 (1), where the section states:-
Any person who in any public road or place carries or has in his possession or under his control any offensive weapon otherwise than with lawful authority or for a lawful purpose shall be guilty of an offence and on conviction be liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than five years and not more than ten years, and to whipping.
Offensive Weapon is described in CESOW as including any instrument which if used as a weapon of offence is likely to cause hurt.
This means that almost any item, if used as a weapon of offence, would likely to cause hurt. So for example if a person is caught carrying a hockey stick or carrying a kitchen knife (which was just purchased) or possessing gardening shears in a public place, he can be charged under Section 6 (1).
Surely there must be more elements to be fulfilled before a charge under Section 6 (1) can be made. The answer: no. In addition to that, once a charge under Section 6(1) is made, the burden falls upon the person charged to show he had a lawful purpose in carrying that item.
Another worrying aspect about Section 6 (1) is the sentencing. To have only imprisonment and whipping, as opposed to including a fine, is harsh. Of course, this is the author’s view. To add on that, prior to 2.7.2014, an accused can be sentenced to prison for a period not exceeding 2 years. Now, we are looking at imprisonment of not less than 5 years.
Until there is a review of Section 6 (1), one can never be overly cautious and aware of the items one carries or purchases.