I REFER to the report “Musa: Death penalty must stay” (The Star, Feb 13) and fully concur with former inspector-general of police Tan Sri Musa Hassan that the death penalty must be maintained for heinous crimes. News about the commission of heinous and dreadful offences such as murder, violent extremist incidents resulting in death, trafficking in dangerous drugs, and possession or control of any firearm, ammunition or explosives without lawful authority is appearing in our media daily.
Such crimes deserve the most severe punishment, reflecting society’s abhorrence and intolerance towards them.
Public interest demands that law and order must be maintained at all times. A sentence that is too lenient may well have the effect of sending a message to the public that it is worth committing an offence because if caught, a lenient sentence will be imposed on the offender. The public would lose confidence in the administration of justice if a lenient sentence is meted out for serious offences.
Murder nowadays is not only rampant, but brutal and vicious. The accused may apologise to the family of the victim, but nothing can alleviate the anguish and sorrow experienced by the victim’s family and friends who will have to come to terms with the trauma, shock and loss caused by the horrifying death of a loved one.
Currently, out of the 195 countries in the world, 53 countries, including Malaysia, still retain the death penalty in their domestic legislations.
Some view the death penalty as a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment while others contend that such severe punishment breaches the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Some even argue that imposing the death penalty does not deter criminals or reduce violent crimes, hence many are supporting the move to abolish it.
It is humbly submitted that the death penalty should be maintained to reflect the gravity of the offence and that public interest demands a deterrent sentence on offenders.
Undoubtedly, it would be ludicrous to contend that the imposition of the death penalty for serious offences has not deterred or reduced the commission of such offences to a certain extent over time.
While it is true that substituting the death penalty with an increase in the years of imprisonment or life imprisonment would remove the offender from the community and thus no longer pose a risk to society, the wishes of the deceased’s family members grieving the loss of their loved one as a result of the brutal or uncivilised criminal acts of the accused must also be viewed with serious consideration.
It is also noteworthy that serious offences punishable with the death sentence would be tried in the High Court and, to convict the offender, the case must be proven against the accused beyond all reasonable doubt. The legal burden is on the prosecution to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt and the evidential burden is on the accused to raise a reasonable doubt.
The duty of a judge at the end of the trial is to carefully evaluate the whole of the evidence of the prosecution and the defence to determine whether reasonable doubt has been raised as to the guilt of the accused.
Where the court finds that the accused is guilty of the offence for which he was charged, the court will assess the appropriate punishment to reflect the seriousness of the offence. In determining the sentence, the public interest must supersede other considerations.
ASHGAR ALI ALI MOHAMED
Ahmad Ibrahim Kulliyyah of Laws
International Islamic University Malaysia