|'Council to serve as advisory board'|
|Wednesday, 06 March 2013 09:52am|
©The New Straits Times (Used by permission)
by KALBANA PERIMBANAYAGAM AND ALIZA SHAH
DIALOGUE: Panel will help reduce sentencing disparity, says Nazri
KUALA LUMPUR: THE Malaysian Bar Council yesterday held a dialogue on its proposal to set up a Sentencing Council.
The dialogue came about due to recent discontent over inconsistent sentences imposed by the courts for certain offences.
The dialogue was officiated by Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz at the Bar Council premises.
It was attended by chairman of both the Victorian Sentencing Advisory Council and the Tasmanian Sentencing Advisory Council Professor Arie Frieberg, a senior appellate judge and judicial experts.
Nazri said such a council would help reduce the disparity in sentences meted out by the courts.
"While it's aimed at reducing discrepancies, the proposed council should make sure that its functions do not affect the independence of the judiciary.
"It should only serve as an advisory board, and not be viewed as a body designated with powers to review the decisions of the courts," he said, citing examples of the role of similar councils in America, Australia and Wales.
He said the Sentencing Council would act as a guideline provider to ensure that both the victim and perpetrator of a crime got justice.
"Public opinion is important and the judiciary should play its role to ensure confidence in the criminal justice system is maintained."
Nazri agreed there could not be fixed sentences in respect of a crime.
"Courts are given the flexibility to determine the appropriate sentence, taking into consideration the facts and circumstances of the case".
Malaysian Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee said having heard numerous complaints about judgments delivered, law practitioners feel it's about time Malaysia set up a Sentencing Council to gain public confidence.
Lim said the Sentencing Council would only advise the judiciary, and that it would not make its recommendations mandatory.
"Besides guidelines, the council will also provide guidance on other factors that should be included before imposing any sentence."
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