'No leniency' Bill planned to disallow light sentences for statutory rape

PADANG RENGGAS: A Bill is to be tabled to disallow judges from handing down lenient sentences to statutory rapists even if they are first offenders.

The Bill adds a provision to Section 376 of the Penal Code, which carries a jail sentence of up to 20 years and whipping for statutory rape.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said the provision would state that Section 294(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code which gives judges discretionary powers to give a lighter sentence to first-time offenders would not apply to statutory rape cases.

"I have spoken to the Attorney-General on the provision and he has agreed, therefore, it will be tabled in the next session of Parliament," he said here yesterday.

He had also listened to the views of women's groups and other non-governmental organisations which were upset by what they regarded as very lenient sentences passed on former national youth squad bowler Noor Afizal Azizan and electrician Chuah Guan Jiu for statutory rape.

The two were bound over for RM25,000 for good behaviour for five years and three years respectively after being found guilty of statutory rape in August this year.

They were 19 and 21 respectively when they committed the offences while their victims were 13 and 12.

Nazri said the additional provision was important to protect minors, who could be easily influenced.

Women, Family and Community Development Deputy Minister Datuk Heng Seai Kie, who was present, had also given her input to the memorandum that the NGOs presented to Nazri.

Heng said the move showed that the Government heeded feedback from the rakyat.

Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail, in a statement on Sept 5, noted that Section 294 of the CPC allowed courts the discretion to bind the offender on a good behaviour bond if he was a first-time offender and had committed the offence under extenuating circumstances.

He said offences involving child victims could not be regarded as having been committed under extenuating circumstances.

Gani added that his chambers had on Aug 29 filed an appeal against the decision made by the Penang Sessions Court in Chuah's case.

As for the Appeal Court's decision on Noor Afizal, he said he might propose the use of the court's inherent power to review its decision.

As of July this year, 859 cases of statutory rape have been reported, 109 of them involving children under 12, and 750 victims aged between 13 and 15.

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