No evidence to prove death penalty reduces fear or deters crime - Lawyers

05 Apr 2023 07:33pm
Photo source: Illustration purpose only
Photo source: Illustration purpose only

SHAH ALAM - The abolition of the mandatory death penalty has no conclusive evidence to show that the death penalty has reduced fear of capital punishments or crimes.

Former Malaysian Bar Council president Salim Bashir said the abolition of the mandatory death penalty is aimed at valuing sanctity of life.

Moreover, there are no clear deterrent effects or conclusive evidence to show that crimes that carry the death penalty have decreased due to the fear of capital punishment.

"Mandatory death penalty deprives judges of the possibility of alternative sentencing when considering personal mitigating circumstances of the accused," he told Sinar Daily.

Salim also urged the government to consider having outreach programmes to educate the public and find core reasons for escalations of crime in society.

"A holistic and reformist approach may provide a better deterrent for crimes than harsh penalties in the law," he said.

Earlier this week, the Mandatory Death Penalty Abolition Bill 2023 was passed in the Dewan Rakyat.

The Mandatory Death Penalty Abolition Bill 2023 is an 'omnibus' act because it includes amendments to the Penal Code, the Firearms (Increased Penalties) Act 1971, the Arms Act 1960, the Kidnapping Act 1961, the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, the Strategic Trade Act 2010, and the Criminal Procedure Code.

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It is to abolish the mandatory death penalty, change the sentence to life imprisonment and whipping, and to provide provisions for the matter related to it.

Experts applaud the government's effort in abolishing the death penalty, hoping for more counselling and community service to reduce crime cases in Malaysia.

Even though the abolishment of the death penalty might be welcomed by everyone, some are of the view that crime rates will increase since there is no death penalty for anyone who commits any crime.

Speaking to another expert, Alex Netto said crime will happen nonetheless for an array of reasons such as greed for money, envy, and the crime of passion.

"I do believe there is no correlation between the removal of the death penalty and an increase in crime rates.

"Crime is a recurring problem in any society around the world, and many steps are already in place to keep it in check.

"Counselling and community service are already in place for lighter offences, and let us not forget that jail terms are still set in place for serious offences," he said.

He who welcomed the abolition said the idea of taking one's life has no place in any civilised society.

Commenting further, Selangor Bar Representative to Bar Council Kokila Vaani Vadiveloo applauds the government's effort and recognition in the abolishment of the death sentence.

"This will also serve to act as a second chance for those wrongly punished by this excessive and disproportionate punishment. This abolishment of the mandatory death penalty is also in line with Articles 5 and 8 of the Federal Constitution.

"There are inherent risks of getting it wrong, the impossibility of restitution, and the disproportionate representation of the poor on death row." she said.

When asked about the possibility of an increase in crime rates, Kokila said it's an old perception that the mandatory death penalty is a necessary evil needed to combat heavy crimes, for instance drug crimes.

"I realise that some may view such an abolishment as giving rise to future or existing culprits running crime activities with the lesser sentencing of the new law.

"However, we have seen and documented how the death penalty itself has not served as a unique deterrent to crime, and there is no concrete evidence to show that the death penalty is any more effective in reducing crime than life imprisonment," she said.

Kokila also urged the government to create options for shortening long sentences by imposing good-behaviour bonds, providing rehabilitation measures to facilitate parole, and providing community services.