Friday, February 19, 2010

Yikes! It's still alive!

Haven't visited let alone updated this site for a year. Didn't expect it to still be around but to my surprise, it's still here and still get the odd visitor. Thanks for dropping by but just like Mr BR nowadays, finding time to update is difficult. Thanks again!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Thou Shalt Not...Steal

Do you know that you can steal your own property? Theft is a common offence and usually understood to involve the taking of someone else's property without permission. The law however does not make a distinction between ownership and possession and theft is defined as dishonestly taking any movable property out of the possession of any person without that person's consent.

In law therefore, if I send my car to the workshop for it to repaired and then simply take it away without paying the repair charges, I am committing theft. The workshop has legal possession of the car at the time even though I have ownership. Therefore to remove it out of the possession of the workshop is theft.

It is not theft if I ask my friend to send the car to the workshop but instead he sells the car. He was in lawful possession of the car but by selling it, he is committing a criminal breach of trust. Similarly, if a person finds a diamond bracelet lying on a public road, by taking it he is not committing theft since it was not in anyone’s possession. If however, he simply keeps it without trying to find its owner or handing the bracelet to the police, he is committing criminal misappropriation of property.

Under the law, simple theft is punishable with imprisonment for up to 3 years. More serious forms of theft such as theft from a building or theft by a servant attract a more severe penalty which is imprisonment for up to 7 years.

Another aggravated form of theft is robbery. Robbery occurs when theft is accompanied by violence or threat of violence. The violence or threat must be in order to commit theft. If a thief pushes a person to the ground in order to take the victim's wallet, then that is robbery. If however he pickpockets the wallet from the victim but later kicked him "for fun", then that is not robbery because the violence was not inflicted to commit the theft. He can however still be charged for theft and causing hurt. Robbery is punishable with a maximum of 30 years' imprisonment and mandatory whipping. If a weapon is used, there is a minimum sentence of 7 years' imprisonment and 12 strokes of whipping. Incidentally a lot of people had gone into trouble for their aggressive tactics in debt collection. Remember that though you are entitled to be paid, you cannot "persuade" the debtor to make payment by force. Otherwise, instead of being paid, you have to pay a lawyer to defend you on a charge of extortion or robbery.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I was at the Stadium on Monday to witness the National Day Silver Jubilee celebrations. I also attended the first National Day celebration at the same place in 1984 (I'm feeling really old now!). Maybe my memory is a little hazy but I sort of remember that the first National day celebration was a much grander affair. His Majesty in his Titah this year recalls the developments in this country not only for the past 25 years but beyond. I think it is therefore appropriate to reflect on the developments in the legal field to see what had been achieved and where we are heading.

To understand the current legal system, we need to go back over 100 years. No surprise, the 1906 agreement with Britain not only brought a new system of administration, the whole legal system was totally overhauled- orang putih Resident using orang putih laws in orang putih courts. Never mind the locals who had been applying a Syaria derived code known as Kanun Brunei at the time. The Courts Enactment 1906 in essence established the legal system as we know it today. The highest court for Brunei at the time was the Courts of Straits Settlement. The highest local court was the Court of the Resident followed by the Magistrate Court First Class, Magistrate Court Second Class and the lowest in the tier the Kathi Court. Thus began the parallel system of civil courts and the religious court which exists until today. The same enactment also imported the laws from the Straits Settlements derived from English common law and no surprise that our legal system is still based on the common law. Most of our written laws are similar to those countries sharing the common law heritage in particular Malaysia and Singapore.

So what has changed in the last 25 years? There has been a marked increase in the number of locals in the Judiciary-0 local High Court Judges in 1984, 3 now. All the Magistrates are now local. But the Chief Justice, the President of the Court of Appeal and the Court of Appeal Judges are still foreigners. We had less than 10 lawyers in the Attorney General's office then, we have over 80 now. The majority of private lawyers are now locals compared with just a tiny minority before. Some things changed but a little. As stated above, we still have a parallel system of courts. The jurisdiction of the Syariah courts, the reincarnation of the old Kadi courts, is still in general restricted to Islamic family law matters. We have His Majesty's commitment to a unified legal and judicial system eventually but the progress is slow. Will there be much progress in the next 25 years? The legal system is notoriously slow to change. I simply hope to see a local Chief Justice and appeal court judges in my lifetime. That would be progress indeed.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Get Set Go-PaPa Law Second Season

After a really lengthy hiatus, I am ready to begin again for a second season. Think of this blog as American Idol or Akademi Fantasia. Those shows only last for 10 weeks or so and then zilch, nada! Just like those shows, I will (fingers crossed) post at least once a week until the end of the current season.The first post is tomorrow, so stay tuned!

Monday, April 21, 2008

More Traffic Woes

Q- I drive a Kancil but I want to buy a Hummer (the real one not the toy). Can I drive it using my existing class 3 licence? Md.Yuppie, Mentiri
A-Your class 3 driving licence will entitle you to drive all private motor vehicles no matter the weight. If however you want to ride a Harley or a Vespa, you will need a class 1 licence.
Q- I have a foreign driving licence. Can I drive in Brunei?Mas Supir, Bokok
A- All drivers must have a Brunei driving licence to drive here with the exceptions of temporary visitors. So if you intend to reside here because of employment or study, you may use your foreign licence as a basis to apply for a Brunei licence. You may or may not have to undergo a driving test. You can however use your existing foreign licence in the mean time unless you are driving a commercial vehicle.

So what is the deal with tinted glass on vehicles? The law requires that all glass and any transparent material fitted to a motor vehicle shall be maintained in such condition that it does not obscure the vision of the driver while the vehicle is being driven on a road. Under the law, a windscreen or window of a motor vehicle shall be deemed to be obscured if any curtain, blinds, stickers, any material or thing whatsoever whether similar or not are fixed to the windscreen or window whether or not such curtains, blinds, stickers, material or thing do in fact obscure the vision of the driver while the motor vehicle is being driven on a road. So take off those Awang Budiman stickers already.

The law also states that no tinted glass shall be used as part of or fitted to the windscreen or window of a motor vehicle except with the prior written permission of the Commissioner of Police or the Director of Land Transport. Now before you go running to apply for permission from the two chaps, it is worth noting that in 1981, permission was already given to all drivers to use or fix tinted glass (whether originally manufactured or retrofitted with plastic film or paint) provided that such tinted glass has a degree of light transmission of 70 % and above and supported by test report form the British or Japanese Institute of Standards. So there you go. Your car can look cool and be in compliance with the law.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Traffic Woes

Papa Law anwers your traffic law questions
Q. Can I drive on the beach? Baywatch Babe, Gadong
A.Except with the permission of the Commissioner of Police or the Director of Land transport, most beach areas in Brunei are off limits to motor vehicles, with the notable exception of Serasa beach as it is not really a beach but a spit (if I recall my O level Geography correctly - got an A you know!).
Q. I ride a Harley and I want to wear those cool German Army style helmets. Surely it is ok? Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die, Labi
A. Ha, you think? The law requires a rider to use a helmet which conforms to the Singapore Standard Specification S.S. 9:1970 or the British Standard B.S 2001:1972. Anything else is illegal to use or sell. So check the helmets before you buy.
Q. I am still confused as to the law regarding seat belts and child seats. I have 7 childern. Explain. Big Momma, Rimba
A. Adults who sit in the driver's and front passenger's seats must wear seat belts. Children under the age of 6 or below 1.3 cannot sit in the front passenger seat. Children under 12 must wear seat belts or other appropriate restraining devices such as child seats or baby cots wherever they are seated. Might be difficult if you have 7 children in the car but hey, don't shoot the messenger. I'm only stating the law.
Q. Tinted car windows are just the thing. I also takut hitam. Can use or not? Fair Lady, Kupang
A. Good news for you but more next time...

Monday, April 14, 2008

An Accidental Driver

A lot of us drive everyday. But how many know the legal position if a driver is involved in an accident?
The law requires the driver involved in an accident whereby damage or injury is caused to any person, property, or animal to stop, and, if required so to do by any person having reasonable grounds for so requiring, give his name and address, and also the name and address of the owner and the identification marks of the vehicle.
If as a result of the accident, the driver has injured any other person on a road, whether by negligence or not, he must stop such vehicle and render such assistance to the injured person as he may be capable of rendering and as the injured person may need. An excuse that "blood will ruin my leather seat" is NOT acceptable.
The driver of the motor vehicle must also report the accident to a police station or to a police officer within 24 hours. Remember that a "runding luar" scenario will not absolve the driver from this obligation.
Can the vehicles involved be moved after the accident? If the accident causes loss of life or serous injury to persons or serious damage to property , then "no person shall, except with the authority of a police officer, move or otherwise interfere with any vehicle involved in the accident or any part of such vehicle or do any other act so as to destroy or alter any evidence of the accident". However the law allows for a vehicle or any part thereof may be moved so far as may be necessary to extricate persons or animals involved, prevent fire or prevent damage or obstruction to the public.
So there you go. If it is just a minor fender bender (langgar belakang), please move your car and don't block the road whilst waiting for the Police. We will still menyibok and stare but at least we can drive through eventually.