Bar says mandatory sentencing for drunk, reckless driving denies judiciary its discretion

Malaysian Bar president Salim Bashir said the association understood the government wanted a deterrence with the minimum prison terms, but expressed concern that these could be excessive if applied across the board. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Malaysian Bar president Salim Bashir said the association understood the government wanted a deterrence with the minimum prison terms, but expressed concern that these could be excessive if applied across the board. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 2 ― The Malaysian Bar has criticised the minimum prison sentences contained in the Road Transport (Amendment) Bill 2020 as encroaching on the courts’ discretion to decide penalties.

Bar president Salim Bashir said the association understood the government wanted a deterrence with the minimum prison terms, but expressed concern that these could be excessive if applied across the board.

“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,” he said in a statement today.

Salim also said the courts must be allowed sentencing discretion to ensure justice was done as each case contained different facts and circumstances.

“Sentences should be handed down judiciously and proportionately in order to ensure that justice is administered in accordance with the circumstances surrounding the offence,” he said.

On August 26, the Road Transport (Amendment) Bill 2020 was passed in the Dewan Rakyat with a simple voice vote to increase penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs and reckless driving meaning that stiffer punishments await those who cause death due to recklessness or driving under the influence.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong said the amendments were done in a comprehensive manner to tackle the problem.

The Bill proposed that those charged under Section 41 for dangerous or reckless driving causing death could face between five and 10 years in jail as well as a fine of not less than RM20,000 and not more than RM50,000.

In the case of a second or subsequent conviction, a person can face imprisonment of between 10 years and 15 years, and not more than RM100,000 fine, should the Bill be passed.

They will also have their licence disqualified for five years if convicted.

Currently, Section 41 of the Act states that those guilty of the offence face between two and 10 years of prison and a fine between RM5,000 and RM20,000.

The Bill also proposed that those who are charged with dangerous or reckless driving can also have their licences disqualified for a period of five years from the current two years.

Apart from that, it also proposes that those charged under Section 43 for careless and inconsiderate driving can also face a fine of between RM5,000 and RM10,000, as well as be liable for a jail term of not more than 12 months for the first offence.

Second or subsequent convictions will see an individual fined between RM10,000 and RM15,000, and jailed for not more than 12 months.

 

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