Heavy sentence needed to 'ensure deterrence'

PETALING JAYA: The move to disallow judges from exercising discretionary power to pass down lenient sentences to convicted statutory rapists, including binding them on good behaviour bond, has received mixed reactions.

While seasoned lawyer Karpal Singh and the Montessory Association of Malaysia (MAM) welcomed it as a step in the right direction, the Bar Council has labelled it a knee-jerk reaction to the controversy arising from recent cases.

Karpal said in view of the increasing cases of statutory rape, it had become a necessity to repeal Section 294(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code.

"It is an important move to ensure deterrence and to reflect the seriousness of the offence," he said.

He said it was unfair when the courts were blamed for handing down lighter sentences as highlighted by the media recently.

MAM president Aisha Z. Abdullah said the light sentences meted out in recent cases have "made light of a very serious offence".

"In the eyes of the public, it is seen as if statutory rapists have been getting away scot-free," she said.

Opposing the move, the Bar Council said interference with judicial discretion was never welcomed.

"It is most unfortunate that the Government is reacting to the controversy by taking away judicial discretion in sentencing.

"This is a knee-jerk reaction because the facts will always differ from one case to another," said its president, Lim Chee Wee, adding that the move failed to consider the situation of young love.

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