|M'sia to consider establishing sentencing council|
|Wednesday, 06 March 2013 08:55am|
©The Sun (Used by permission)
by Michelle Chun
KUALA LUMPUR (March 5, 2013): The time is now right for Malaysia to seriously consider establishing a sentencing council to enhance the administration of justice, de facto law minister Datuk Seri Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz said today.
In his keynote address at a dialogue session by the Malaysian Bar Council here today, Nazri said the government is looking at establishing the council to play an advisory role.
"The judiciary must always be independent and be seen to be independent, so therefore the council should only play an advisory role and not be viewed as a body designated with powers to review court decisions.
"The government will support this council on the basis that it is advisory," he said.
A sentencing council comes up with guidelines for judges to decide on the appropriate sentence to reflect the crime committed and ensure it is proportionate to the seriousness of the offence.
Nazri said following public displeasure against sentences meted out to those convicted of statutory rape last year, the government was advised by the Attorney General's Chambers to look into setting up a sentencing council.
"The establishment of a sentencing council will function to reduce the disparity in sentencing by providing guidelines to assist the courts in deciding on the right sentence," he said.
Bar council president Lim Chee Wee said the composition of such a council should include judges, prosecutors, civil societies, defence lawyers and academics.
Victoria and Tasmania Sentencing Advisory Council chairman Prof Arie Freiberg, Court of Appeal judge Datuk Azahar Mohamed and criminal lawyer Datuk V Sithambaram made presentations at the session attended by some 150 people.
"The outcome of the dialogue will be greater momentum towards the establishment of the sentencing council in Malaysia," Lim said.
Meanwhile, Lim also suggested that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak include the abolition of the death penalty in his campaign manifesto.
However, Nazri said such a decision cannot be made by Najib alone.
"Unlike France which has a presidential system, our system does not directly elect the prime minister.
"The prime minister cannot promise anything in his manifesto without discussing it with all component parties under the Barisan Nasional," he said.
Nazri said the establishment of a sentencing council would be initiated through the tabling of a Bill, drawn up by the AGC, in Parliament.
"We would need a piece of legislation wholly on the sentencing council, other ways are possible but it won't be transparent and without checks and balances.
"Hopefully we can see the Bill read in the next session of Parliament," he said.
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