Chief Justice: Consider danger of spread of Covid-19 in prisons when imposing sentences

Police escort detainees who flouted the movement control order at the Butterworth Court Complex in Penang March 31, 2020. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Police escort detainees who flouted the movement control order at the Butterworth Court Complex in Penang March 31, 2020. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

PUTRAJAYA, April 5 — Chief Justice Tan Sri Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat urged judicial officers to consider the issue of the risk of spreading Covid-19 facing prisons in the country when imposing sentences on violations of the Movement Control Act (MCO).

According to a statement issued by the Federal Court Chief Registrar’s Office Corporate Communication Unit (PKPMP), taking into account the provision of penalties under the existing law in sentencing the offenders, all judicial officers were advised to consider the risk of spreading the outbreak faced by prisons.

However, it is up to the court to consider the appropriate forms of punishment taking into account the risk of transmission of the outbreaks facing prisons.

The PKPMP also confirmed receiving a letter from the Malaysian Prison Department’s director-general on April 2 regarding the acceptances of prisoners for the MCO offences.

In the letter, Datuk Sri Zulkifli Omar suggested that those who violated the MCO be sentenced to community services without being jailed. 

According to Zulkifli, the Prison Department believed that it would be a major problem if Covid-19 was to spread in prison because, apart from the impossibility of implementing social distancing, prisons could also become the place for the proliferation of the contagious disease and could endanger the lives of prisoners and staff.

On March 25, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced that the MCO would be extended until April 14 to curb the Covid-19 outbreak.

Prior to this, Magistrates and Sessions Courts throughout the country had sentenced offenders to jail terms of several days and months and fines of between several hundreds and RM1,000 as well as a Compulsory Attendance Order (PKW), a community service programme, for some offenders including senior citizens and juveniles for flouting the MCO.

The most offence committed was failing to comply with the MCO by moving from one place to another in any of the infected areas under Regulation 3 (1) of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases (Measures Within the Local Areas) Regulations 2020 which provides for a maximum jail term of six months and a fine of up to RM1,000 or both.

Some were also charged with obstructing civil servants in performing their duties during the MCO period under Section 186 of the Penal Code which provides for a maximum jail term of two years or a fine of up to RM10,000 or both, upon conviction. — Bernama

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