Death penalty still in law, but no longer mandatory

Prior to the abolition of the mandatory death sentence, the judge had no choice but to impose it on the accused when convicted of the offence


COURT judges can still consider the death sentence for offences that carry such a penalty despite the agreed abolition of the mandatory death penalty.

The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar (third from left) said prior to the abolition of the mandatory death sentence, the judge had no choice but to impose it on the accused when convicted of the offence.

“However, with the abolition of the mandatory death sentence, the judge will have the discretion to impose an alternative sentence, whether it is imprisonment or whipping. 

“It depends on the seriousness of the crime and other mitigating factors,” he said in a press conference in Putrajaya today.

In regards to a blanket pardon of all death row inmates, the minister said it depends on the individual cases, adding that the government would have to carefully consider it.

“I have received recommendations from various quarters regarding the current death row inmates. On the one hand, they want them to be pardoned and on the other, some feel that the victims’ families should be compensated for their losses.

“Hence, each state will decide on how best to handle it,” he said.

He explained that the government’s decision was made after considering as much as possible a holistic study by the Special Committee since 2019, through reviews by local and foreign legal experts; seven focus group discussions involving various stakeholders and the general public, including engagement sessions with the victim’s family, the families of the final inmate, and the final inmate, and a detailed review of existing laws.

He also said the government has received and thought about the suggestions of the Special Committee on the Direction of Malaysia’s Criminal Justice System. 

Some of these suggestions were to set up a pre-sentencing procedure, a Sentencing Council, sentencing guidelines, the Law Reform Commission, reform prisons, and use restorative justice sentences.

“The next question is on the moratorium on the execution of the death penalty enforced during this study period involving 1,342 prisoners.

“In this regard, the moratorium is still maintained and in force until follow-up actions related to the abolition of the mandatory death penalty are implemented.

“In addition, the Legal Affairs Division and the Attorney General’s Chambers will review and examine the feasibility of the recommendations submitted by the Special Committee for these 1,342 prisoners. 

“Their proposal is the establishment of a special panel consisting of judges of the Federal Court and the Court of Appeal. This matter needs scrutiny as it touches on constitutionality issues,” he said.

A total of 34 offences carry the mandatory death sentence, including murder, rape, kidnapping, armed robbery, treason, drug trafficking and possession.

Under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 (Act 234), the mandatory death sentence has been amended as of 2018, under the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2017.

The amendment seeks to empower the Court to impose the death penalty or life imprisonment and whipping not less than 15 times for drug trafficking offenses, subject to proof in four circumstances as provided in subsection 39B (2A) of the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2017.

Wan Junaidi clarified that the amendments are made to ensure proportional and constitutional sentencing for serious crimes, as well as to strengthen the deterrent effect of capital punishment.

“With 144 countries abolishing the death penalty, Malaysia must do likewise to avoid being left behind.

“I hope that this will help to improve our standing as a humane, forward-thinking and progressive nation,” he added.

On his personal thoughts on the removal of the mandatory death penalty, the minister said it was a tough decision to make, but it had to be done.

“The death penalty is irreversible retribution. For a long time, I was opposed to the obligatory death penalty.

“As a member of the ‘baby boomer’ generation, I hope the future generations will have a better knowledge of human rights and their significance. I am convinced that they will have a different perspective,” he said.

Wan Junaidi was also confident that Malaysians will back the government’s decision.


Recent Posts

Credit Suisse’s collapse reveals some ugly truths about Switzerland for investors

For decades, Switzerland has sold itself as a haven of legal certainty for bond and…

3 hours ago

The 11 days of turmoil that brought down four banks and left a fifth teetering

The speed with which four banks collapsed — and one continues to struggle — has…

3 hours ago

SVB’s Greg Becker was Silicon Valley’s money man for 30 years, until suddenly he wasn’t

Early on March 9, as SVB Financial Group’s stock began its death spiral, Chief Executive Officer…

3 hours ago

Google opens Bard AI chatbot to the public

Alphabet Inc.’s Google is granting the public access to its ChatGPT competitor, the conversational AI…

4 hours ago

West Bank settlers win Israel parliament vote

JERUSALEM – Israel's settler movement celebrated Tuesday after parliament annulled part of a law banning them…

6 hours ago

Thai election to be held May 14: commission

BANGKOK – Thailand's general election will be held on May 14, authorities confirmed Tuesday, as…

7 hours ago