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Published: Friday December 6, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Friday December 6, 2013 MYT 7:10:12 AM

Withdrawal of Bills hailed

PETALING JAYA: The legal community praised the Government for withdrawing two crime-related Bills from Parliament, saying that both of them needed more fine-tuning.

Bar Council president Christopher Leong welcomed the withdrawal of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) (Amendments) 2013 and the Evidence (Amendment) Bill 2013.

“Justice must always take into account the particular circumstances of each case and the discretion of the judiciary in this regard must never be interfered with,” he said yesterday.

Objections have been raised by the legal community over the amendments to the CPC as anyone found guilty of multiple offences will now have to serve time for each crime consecutively, with concurrent sentences disallowed under the new amendments.

For example, a person convicted of housebreaking and theft will have to serve out the sentence for each offence one after another.

And since housebreaking and theft carry a maximum of two years and seven years jail respectively, the person could end up behind bars for nine years.

The amendments would also have taken away the judges’ discretion to apply Section 294, which would have meant that a judge would no longer have a discretion to release youth offenders on probation of good conduct if the law provided a minimum penalty for their offence.

Leong said if the Evidence (Amendment) Bill 2013 was passed, it would be problematic to allow evidence taken from witnesses in the absence of the accused in a criminal trial.

Lawyers for Liberty co-founder Eric Paulsen said if the Evidence (Amendment) Bill was passed, it would mean witnesses can testify in secret, with the accused or their counsel unable to see, hear or cross-examine those witnesses.

“Such secrecy is repugnant to the very basic foundation of our criminal justice system that demands a fair trial,” said Paulsen.

On the withdrawal of the CPC, Paulsen said judges need to take into account various factors in individual cases.

“The discretionary powers of judges should remain,” he added.

On Wednesday, the Government withdrew six Bills including the amendments to the CPC and the Evidence Bills.

Criminal defence lawyer Sreekant Pillai said plea bargaining would be a waste due to the lengthy jail sentences the accused would likely face if the CPC amendments were passed.

Tags / Keywords: Politics, parliament, Bills


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