Judges may be allowed more discretion in sentencing drug traffickers

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Source: The Star Online

THE Cabinet has agreed to review the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 to allow judges to use their discretion in senten­cing offenders instead of imposing the mandatory death sentence.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said said the review will enable judges to mete suitable sentences in marginal cases where offenders could be given jail sentences.

Azalina said the review was presented to the Cabinet on March 1 by Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali.

“The Cabinet has agreed to an amendment of Section 39(B) of theDangerous Drugs Act 1952 to include the additional clause to provide discretionary powers to the courts when sentencing, apart from the mandatory death penalty, for drug trafficking.

“As such, the ministry as well as relevant agencies will prepare a Cabinet Ministers Memorandum together with a recommendation to amend the Act for the consideration and approval of the Cabinet,” said Azalina during the winding-up speech on the motion of thanks on the Royal Address yesterday.

She said the implementation had to be done through the legal process, and added that many countries had also made changes on the death penalty.

“However, some countries like the United States of America, China, India, Singapore and Thailand have retained the death penalty as a punish­ment for serious offences.”

Ramkarpal Singh (DAP-Bukit Gelugor) had asked if the move could have a retrospective review on pending death penalty cases, if approved.

Gobind Singh Deo (DAP-Puchong) also asked if there could be a moratorium in place on pending cases until the Act was amended.

To this, Azalina said it was too soon to say as the matter was still at an early stage and there were many other processes to go through before a decision could be made.

Azalina also said that according to Prison Department statistics, there are almost 800 prisoners on death row for drug trafficking offences under Section 39(B).