KUALA LUMPUR - A TEENAGER who spent four years in jail for murdering his tutor's daughter when he was 12 was returned to prison yesterday after Malaysia's top court overturned a previous ruling that had freed him, a defence lawyer said.
The 17-year-old, who was not identified because he is a minor, was found guilty in 2003 of stabbing to death the 11-year-old daughter of his tutor.
He was jailed 'at the discretion of the king', which in Malaysia means an open-ended prison term whose length is determined by the constitutional monarch.
The boy had stabbed his tuition teacher's daughter 20 times and slashed her four times with a sharp object in June 2002 after she repeatedly called him 'fatty'.
He was released in July this year after the Court of Appeal ruled that even though the conviction was valid, the sentencing was unconstitutional because there are no legal guidelines to imprison minors convicted of murder.
But in an unexpected twist, a five-member Federal Court panel yesterday unanimously agreed with the prosecution that the Court of Appeal had erred, said the boy's lawyer, Mr Ram Karpal Singh.
'They overturned the Court of Appeal's decision. They ruled that the child can be sentenced at the pleasure of the king and there is nothing unconstitutional with that,' he told the Associated Press.
After the proceedings ended, the boy's family approached him while he was seated in the dock, and took turns hugging him before he was handcuffed and sent back to Kajang prison.
He remained stoic and quietly followed the police out of the courtroom.
Mr Singh said he would consult the boy's family before deciding whether to seek a judicial review.
The Court of Appeal's move to free the boy had earlier sparked concern that minors, aged under 19, would be able to get away with murder. It prompted Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi to order the Attorney-General to review laws governing young offenders.
Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail said the teenager's detention would be reviewed every year by the Board of Visiting Justices.
He also urged parents to take more responsibility for their children's well-being, as the number of violent crimes committed by young people has increased over the years.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, ASSOCIATED PRESS