Saturday, July 2, 2022

Death penalty still here, says law minister

Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar says only the mandatory death penalty will be abolished.

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The death penalty still exists in Malaysian law even though the government has decided to abolish the mandatory death penalty, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said today.

He said the government had agreed to abolish the mandatory death penalty and substitute it with other sentences subject to the discretion of the courts.

“The government, through a Cabinet meeting, agreed in principle on June 8 to do away with the mandatory death penalty, but it is still being implemented at the court.

“The sentence is governed by existing laws (which have yet to be amended),” he told a press conference in Putrajaya.

He said the mandatory death penalty referred to the provisions for criminal offences in which the convicted offender would be sentenced to death without exception as the judge has no other choice but to hand down the sentence for the offence, such as under Section 302 of the Penal Code.

Wan Junaidi said the amendment related to the abolition of the mandatory death penalty would be tabled for first reading at Parliament in October. He said it was expected that the provision of the law could be realistically abolished either in January or February next year.

“The government’s decision is a bold step forward (for Malaysia’s criminal justice system) to be seen as more humane,” he said.

He said a public survey would also be carried out on the abolition of the mandatory death penalty and, if there were more objections than there was support, the matter would be taken back to the Cabinet for a decision.

Wan Junaidi said many quarters had questioned the implications of the abolition of the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking offences under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 (Act 234).

He said Section 39B of Act 234 no longer provides for the mandatory death penalty as it had been substituted with the death penalty at the court’s discretion through the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2017 (Act A1558) effective March 15, 2018.

Wan Junaidi said the government had also accepted and taken into consideration the recommendations by the special committee regarding the direction of the criminal justice system in Malaysia.

He said this included the introduction of pre-sentencing procedures, a sentencing council and a sentencing guideline, as well as the setting up of a law commission, prison reforms and the execution of sentences based on restorative justice.

The minister said the Legal Affairs Division and the Attorney-General’s Chambers were also in the midst of studying the feasibility of the recommendations made by the special committee on the 1,342 inmates whose death sentences were put on hold due to the earlier moratorium.

He said the special committee also proposed the setting up of a special panel comprising Federal Court and Court of Appeal judges for this purpose.

“This matter needs scrutiny as it touches on constitutional issues,” he added.

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