Malaysian police have been criticised for handcuffing students and allowing the press to take pictures during a raid on a school in Johor state, in which 40 students were arrested for alleged drug offences. The Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, also the Home Minister responsible for the police, said the handcuffing was unnecessary, while lawyers accused the officers of being 'over-zealous'. The children were aged between 11 and 17. 'They should not have handcuffed the children,' Dr Mahathir said. 'Perhaps the police were following normal practice but I think in cases like this they should have used their discretion.' But Dr Mahathir said the authorities should not be overly protective of students as they might think they can do anything. 'I feel if it has reached a stage where schoolchildren are involved, it is very serious,' he said. 'That is the reason we are open about the matter. Until now, most of us wanted to hide it. We did not want to show our weaknesses.' The arrests in Muar prompted a debate over the publication in some newspapers of photographs of handcuffed students. People working with young offenders said such publicity could traumatise some children. Lawyers said that while the law did not prohibit press coverage during arrests, the publicity surrounding the Muar school raid was against the spirit of the Juvenile Courts Act, which protected minors in court from being identified. The District Education Office in Muar said the raid was ill-timed and had jeopardised a social programme to combat drug use. In Penang, the State Health Committee said random urine testing for drug use in state schools had seen a rise in the number of pupils giving a positive result, while in Ipoh, the Minister of Education, Najib Tun Razak, said syndicates were using students as traffickers because the penalties were less severe for minors than adults.