Excessive sentencing involving those who violate the movement control order

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The Malaysian Bar is disturbed by accounts of excessive sentences and cases of disparity in sentencing between ordinary people and those with influence, in relation to persons who have violated the movement control order.

We acknowledge that the range of sentences handed down may well be within the ambit of the law, but the power of the court to hand down sentences must be exercised judiciously in order to avoid any travesty of justice.

The Malaysian Bar urges the court to temper justice with compassion, especially when we are not dealing with instances of violent crime. Reformative considerations must be foremost in the mind of the court when handing down sentences to those who violate the movement control order.

Section 25 of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 gives the director general of health the discretion to offer compounds for any offence under this act or any regulations made under this act. We urge the director general of health to exercise this discretion conferred by law.

The government has stated that since the beginning of the movement control order until 25 April 2020, a total of 20,011 people have been arrested for violating the movement control order. It is not clear how many of these people have been imprisoned.

Incarcerating someone in a crowded place will make it more difficult to contain the transmission of the Covid-19 virus. While violating the movement control order should not be taken lightly, sending violators to jail is a cure that is worse than the disease.

READ MORE:  Movement control order tough on everyone - but some more than others

Putting people in jail may send a deterrent message to the public, but it adds to the problem of Covid-19 transmissions in courts and prisons.

The courts must administer justice with compassion and give due consideration to all mitigating factors that gave rise to the offence. It is justice that we must pursue and not simply punishment.

Salim Bashir is president of the Malaysian Bar

This piece dated 28 April 2020 is reproduced from here and has been edited for style only.

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Gursharan Singh
Gursharan Singh
5 May 2020 11.06am

Objective of the RM1K penalty for offenders of MCO was to deter people from contravening MCO. But this objective may have served only for lower income earners BUT THE POOR MAY GO TO PRISON IF NOT ABLE TO PAY AS SOME HAVE BEEN SENT TO PRISON.

On the other hand TO THE RICH the RM1K PENALTY/FINE may just be LOOSE CHANGE and thus the RM1K MAY NOT SERVE OBJECTIVE AS A DETERRENT and to those in power and may even ENHANCE THEIR STATUS WHEN THEY CLAIM ALL ARE TREATED EQUALLY UNDER THE LAW AND THEY RESPECT THE LAW.

it is suggested for consideration that the PENALTY SUM BE COMPATIBLE TO THE WEALTH/INCOME OR STATUS OF THE OFFENDERS and NO LIMIT ON MAXIMUM FINE AMOUNT.