Sunday, February 5, 2023

Mandatory death sentence not abolished, but judges given discretionary in sentencing

NewsMandatory death sentence not abolished, but judges given discretionary in sentencing

On Friday (10 June), the Malaysian government announced that it will be abolishing the mandatory death penalties in the country.

In a statement posted on Twitter, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) YB Dato Sri Dr Haji Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the death penalty will instead be replaced with other sentences which are subject to the judges’ discretion.

“The government also in principle accepts and takes note of the committee’s recommendations detailed through the study report,” he said.

Wan Junaidi said the decision was reached after he presented the report on the Study of Substitute Sentences on Mandatory Death Penalty during the Cabinet meeting on 8 June.

The committee was headed by former Chief Justice Tun Richard Malanjun and it comprised of other experts in the field, including the former solicitor general, legal practitioners, law lecturers from leading public institutions, and criminologists.

In addition, the authorities also took note of the recommendations from the special committee on Substitute Sentences against Mandatory Death Penalties. 

“The Cabinet had also agreed to conduct further research and studies on the proposed substitute sentences for 11 offences carrying mandatory death penalties, 1 offence under section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 (Act 234) and 22 offences carrying the death penalty but with the discretion of the court.” the statement reads.

Wan Junaidi said the study will be carried out together with Attorney General’s Chambers, the Legal Affairs Division, the Prime Minister’s Department and other relevant ministries and departments.

“This action is very significant to ensure that the amendments to the relevant acts take into account the principles of ‘proportionality and constitutionality’ of any proposal to the government later.” he said.

Wan Junaidi said this move shows the government emphasizes “protecting and guaranteeing” the rights of all individuals, thus reflecting the transparency of the country’s leadership in improving the country’s dynamic criminal justice system.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob explained that the death penalty will remain and not be abolished, and the change is only on the fact that judges are now given discretion in sentencing.

He added with the decision, that the “mandatory” part will be removed and judges will no longer be bound by the word which had previously left them no choice but to impose the death penalty on criminal offenders as provided by law, such as in drug trafficking cases.

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