|Sentences that just do not make sense|
|Monday, 04 March 2013 09:14am|
©The Star (Used by permission)
by MAIZATUL NAZLINA and QISHIN TARIQ
KUALA LUMPUR: The administration of criminal justice in Malaysia is in need of a better system for more uniformity in sentencing.
Besides disparities in sentences for similar offences and offences of a violent nature, the people are also concerned over cases in which judges have chosen to impose bonds for good behaviour.
On March 13, for example, a Kuala Lumpur magistrate sentenced a disabled man to a year’s jail for attempting to steal a car radio cassette player.
The same court sentenced a woman to a day’s jail and RM500 fine for stealing a packet of disposable napkins from a supermarket.
The disabled man faced a maximum of seven years’ jail and a fine under Section 397A of the Penal Code and the woman, up to 10 years’ jail and a fine under Section 380.
As early as in 2004, Attorney-General Tan Sri Gani Patail had raised the matter of disparity in sentences while reminding legal and judicial officers of the importance of giving the public reasons for their decisions.
The Attorney-General said people were confused with courts sentencing rapists to 17 years’ jail while those convicted of culpable homicide were only jailed up to eight years.
The discretion of judges to impose good behaviour bond under Section 294 of the Criminal Procedure Code became a controversy last year.
There were no complaints when a magistrate in Bukit Mertajam imposed such a bond for two years, with RM10,000 as security in one surety without deposit, on a housewife who pleaded guilty to stealing a bag of groceries.
Her legal aid lawyer had submitted that the unemployed mother of four had not been conscious of her actions since she had been diagnosed with breast cancer a year before.
However, the public was outraged when other courts imposed a similar bond on young men convicted of raping minors, moving the Government to announce that it would introduce a Bill in Parliament to remove the discretionary powers of judges in sentencing offenders for statutory rape.
The Bar Council would rather see the establishment of a Sentencing Council instead of mandatory sentencing, said its chairman Lim Chee Wee.
Representatives from the judiciary, the Malaysian Bar, the Attorney-General’s Chambers, civil society groups, universities and foreign experts are scheduled to meet tomorrow to discuss the merits of such a council.
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