MPs and experts back move to abolish mandatory death sentence

PETALING JAYA: More engagement is needed with all relevant stakeholders before the government decides to abolish the mandatory death sentence for certain crimes, say MPs and experts.

Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah said those who were sentenced under mandatory sentencing practices should be afforded judicial review, where mitigating factors, including character, age, health and mental condition of the offender, were considered by the sentencing judge and sentencing principles.

“I hope to see the Bill either in July or if not in the October Parliament sitting. Prior to that, consultations must be conducted with NGOs, stakeholders and MPs.

“Let us not postpone this amendment,” she said when contacted yesterday.

On Friday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the death penalty would remain and not be abolished, and the change was only on the fact that judges were now given discretion in sentencing.

Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar said the proposed abolition of mandatory death sentences was an important step forward in legal reform.

“However, this development must be part of a wider agenda of reforming prisons and places of detention.

“We must ensure incarcerated persons and the institutions that host them are safe and fit for purpose.

“I am encouraged by not just this announcement – but also the Prisons Department that have been actively working towards realising prison reforms through further training, on the ground engagement and hard work.

“We must complement such efforts – by supporting Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar’s call for the setting up of a pre-sentencing procedure and Sentencing Council, among others,” she said.

Pasir Gudang MP Hassan Abdul Karim said he would support the government’s intention for the abolition of death penalty for certain crimes.

“It is a good move, progressive and in line with the basic principles of human rights and the federal constitution.

“As an MP, I will support the Bill when it is tabled in Parliament,” he said.

However, he hoped that the abolition of the mandatory death penalty for certain crimes should be applied retrospectively.

Meanwhile, on discretionary powers given to judges on sentencing, former Federal Court judge Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram said it would allow judges to look at factors that were peculiar to each case before deciding to impose the capital punishment or a custodial one.

“There is a vast difference between the case of a man who is unable to prove provocation as defined in the Penal Code but may yet show provocation in fact.

“In such a case in court, in the absence of countervailing facts, a sentence of imprisonment would suffice.

“Similarly, in drug cases, there may be extenuating circumstances to warrant imprisonment rather than death,” he said.

He added that in cases involving drug mules, it might also “all depend on why the accused transported the drugs”.

Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Assoc Prof Dr Geshina A Mat Saat said judges would consider the reason why they were meting out the preferred punishment over another.

This, she noted, could range from public interest, seeking retribution for society, deterrence, rehabilitation or incapacitation.

“The main issue is to understand the reason for punishment,” she said.

She also noted that the judge, when deciding, would also consider the rights of victims and their families in seeking justice.

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