There should be no extra punishment


  • Brave New World
  • Wednesday, 07 Jun 2017

Once a sentence has been pronounced, it should be carried out according to the book and without any additional measures. 

WHEN a person is found guilty of a crime in Malaysia; what are the usual punishments?

It depends on the type of offence, of course, but generally the worst possible punishment is death by hanging, followed by whipping, incarceration and finally a fine.

Personally, I think the death penalty should be done away with.

This is not because I believe that it is wrong in principle, but because no legal system is perfect and therefore if there is a risk, no matter how small, that an innocent person may be found guilty, then it is unconscionable that there should be a punishment as final as death available on the books.

Whipping is, from my point of view, a form of torture and torture is clearly against international customary law. Thus, it should also not be part of our legal system.

Furthermore, to make matters worse, the death penalty and whipping are being used for crimes that in my view do not merit such harsh and cruel penalties.

Drug offences should not carry the death sentence as it does nothing to stop the drug problem and it is also always used only on the small fry at the very bottom of the illegal drug trade, and these are often desperate or ignorant people.

Whipping as a punishment is also used for inappropriate offences like immigration crimes.

I think there can be absolutely no justification of beating someone simply because they do not have the right papers on them.

Be that as it may, these are the penalties in our country for crime.

So when a person is in police custody or in jail, then they can only be punished by the methods made available by the law. Anything else is unlawful and wrong.

This is why death in custody cases should be taken into serious consideration.

A person should not die when under the care of the criminal justice system. They are there to serve their punishment and nothing else.

Therefore, it is the responsibility of the authorities to ensure they are properly cared for until they have served their sentences.

They have no right to beat people in custody and if they do it, then they should not only be fired but they should also be criminally prosecuted.

There have been civil cases brought against policemen who have hurt inmates and detainees.

Former constable V. Navindran was ordered to serve three years’ jail in 2015 after his appeal against his conviction for the custodial death of A. Kugan was rejected, but there have not been many criminal convictions.

What is a crime? A crime is an offence that, although it may affect only a few victims, is yet deemed to be an offence against society. This is why the state prosecutes crimes and not the individual victim.

This being the case, a crime, in a way, reflects the values of society. It is a crime for those in authority to beat detainees under their charge.

Stories of poor treatment in custody are worrying because the frequency with which they occur suggests a normalisation of such behaviour, on the part of those who are charged with fighting crime.

This mindset cannot be allowed to continue, on the part of the authorities as well as on the part of ordinary folk who may feel that undesirables (like criminals) deserve what they get.

As a civilised society, our laws determine the punishment for those who break the law.

There can be no other extra punishment meted out by anyone.

To allow such acts would be most barbaric indeed.

Azmi Sharom (azmi.sharom@gmail.com) is a law teacher. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.


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Opinion , Azmi Sharom , columnist

   

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