Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Lawyer: Natural life sentence a better deterrent - Abolish the Death Penalty

BANGI: A lawyer has suggested that the death penalty be abolished, as it does not seem to be an effective deterrent.

M.M. Athimulan said a better deterrent would be natural life imprisonment.

He said crimes such as murder, drug trafficking and armed robbery were on the rise despite the law providing for death by hanging.

"In fact, traffickers are prepared to risk their lives and carry on with the clandestine activities to make a fast buck," he said in a paper entitled "Abolishment of Death Penalty" at a criminal law conference at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia here yesterday.

At present, judges can reduce murder and drug trafficking charges in the midst of a trial if they find there is insufficient evidence.

In such cases, the offender gets a jail term of up to 20 years, with one-third remission for good behaviour.

Athimulan said the natural life sentence -- serving time in prison until death -- would better deter would-be criminals.

He said from his experience, those charged with offences that carried the natural life sentence were more fearful because they would have to languish in prison indefinitely.

Athimulan, however, admitted that this could be expensive as the government would have to keep and feed them.

A participant, Mohammad Rafique Rashid Ali, suggested that the death penalty be maintained but that the guilty be executed in public.

Lawyer Gurbachan Singh, who delivered a paper titled "Constructing Defence On Drug Charges in Court", said that there was uncertainty in this area of the law due to inconsistencies.

Gurbachan said recent judicial pronouncements on trafficking and possession cases appeared to have been wrongly decided.

"In the past we had eminent judges who upheld the law and were never affected by the facts of a case."

Another lawyer, Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, who delivered a paper on "Criminal Advocacy" advised newcomers to the Bar to be innovative and break new grounds in criminal jurisprudence.

He said lawyers must rise to the defence of their clients at the prosecution stage when conducting cross-examination of witnesses.

"Trial judges are unlikely to accept the accused's version during defence as it will be construed as a concoction or as an afterthought," Hisyam Teh said. - New Straits Times, 15/11/2009, Lawyer: Natural life sentence a better deterrent

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