It was reported that the Road Transport (Amendment) Bill 2020 was recently passed with majority support in the Dewan Rakyat on 26 August 2020.
The bill seeks to amend the Road Transport Act 1987 in order to strengthen the punishments meted out for driving under the influence — as stated under Section 44 of the act — including a minimum seven-year jail term.
The bill also amends Section 41 of the act which proposes that those charged for dangerous or reckless driving resulting in death could face a jail term of between five and 10 years, an increase from the current sentence of between two and 10 years.
While the Malaysian Bar sees the reason behind increasing sentences as a way to deter reckless drivers from consuming drugs or alcohol before driving, we are concerned that this mandatory minimum sentencing protocol will be unduly severe.
This is pertinent as offenders will be jailed for a minimum of seven years, irrespective of the severity of the injury caused and the factual matrix of each individual case.
We are also concerned that a longer mandatory imprisonment will result in disproportionate emotional and financial hardship for the families of convicted offenders.
The Malaysian Bar takes the stand that courts must be granted judicial discretion to determine the facts of each case before meting out punishment. Sentences should be handed down judiciously and proportionately to ensure justice is administered in accordance with the circumstances surrounding the offence.
Salim Bashir is president of the Malaysian Bar
This piece is reproduced from here and has been edited for style only.