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Published: Tuesday December 3, 2013 MYT 8:30:00 AM
Updated: Monday December 2, 2013 MYT 5:40:33 PM

Death penalty: You are the Judge (3)

KUALA LUMPUR: Are Malaysians a vengeful lot? Those who support the mandatory death penalty seem more interested in retribution than in its function as a deterrence.

According to a recent public opinion survey on the mandatory death penalty for murder, drug trafficking and Firearms (Enhanced Penalties) Act offences, that was strongest reason given for imposing the death sentence.

They related to “no excuses, all convicted deserve to die”.

After the sample of 1,535 Malaysian citizens were asked in a Death Penalty Project survey whether they supported the death penalty, they had been asked to impose their own sentences in 12 typical capital case-scenarios that appear in our courts. 

According to Emeritus Prof Roger Hood, those who favoured a discretionary death penalty for at least one of the three crimes, said their main reasons were: “circumstances differed, so not everyone convicted of one of these crimes would deserve to die (31%), that some people can be rehabilitated (39%), or that the death penalty should be reserved for only the most heinous forms of these crimes (30%).”

Prof Hood, who analysed and wrote up findings of the Death Penalty Project survey in Malaysia, said a higher proportion (62%) of Malays (54% of the sample) were in favour of the mandatory death penalty for murder than the Chinese (54%), Indian (52%) or non-Malay bumiputra (38%).

“Those who said that they were of the Islamic faith (60% of the sample) were more likely (60%) to favour the mandatory death penalty for murder than those of other faiths – Buddhists and Hindus (53%) and Christians (46%).

“But in respect of age, gender, urban or rural living, and work status there were negligible differences in the level of support for the mandatory death penalty for murder; for trafficking in heroin of 15 grams or more; or for firearms offences.”

When ranking five preventive policies in terms of their likely effectiveness in reducing very violent crimes leading to death, he said 48% placed ‘greater number of executions’ last and only 12% ranked it first.

“Furthermore, if evidence were to be forthcoming that an innocent person had been executed, support for capital punishment would drop dramatically.

“Taken together, this evidence shows that the level and strength of support among the Malaysian public for the death penalty for murder is lower than is perhaps commonly supposed. “This suggests that public opinion ought not to be regarded as a definite barrier to abolition of the death penalty for murder.”

If you were a judge, would you sentence someone to death? Take our quiz and compare your answers with the results of the 1,535 Malaysians who took part in the survey.

Death penalty: You are the Judge (3)


TEST your attitude to the mandatory death penalty that exists currently for murder, drug trafficking and Firearms (Increased Penalties) Act offences.

Would you choose the death penalty in the last four of the 12 scenarios devised by Prof Roger Hood of Oxford University for the Death Penalty Project survey in Malaysia?

Compare your answers with the results of the 1,535 Malaysians who took part in the survey.

Case 9: Drug Related Murder

'A young man, aged 19, deliberately shot dead a drug dealer who had failed to pay a debt. He had no previous convictions for violence and had said that he killed the victim on the orders of an older man.'

Case 10: Drug Related Murder

'A man, aged 35, with previous convictions for violence and drug possession shot dead a rival drug dealer who had failed to pay back a debt.'

Case 11: Firearms Burglary 

'A man, aged 19, broke into a house at night carrying a loaded pistol and, when disturbed by the householder carrying a stick, shot at him but missed.'

Case 12: Firearms Burglary


'A man, aged 30, broke into a house at night carrying a loaded pistol. The householder heard him come into the residence and went to see what was happening, carrying a stick. The burglar shot at the householder and caused a wound in his arm, which was not fatal. He ran away but was later caught by the police. He had a previous conviction for housebreaking and had served a prison sentence.'



Tags / Keywords: Courts and Crime, Death penalty 3

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