Why sentence some MCO violators harsher than others? Bar asks, urging compassion

Malaysian Bar president Salim Bashir reminded the courts that the offence in question is not of criminal nature and as such the courts should have prioritised efforts to reform offenders. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Malaysian Bar president Salim Bashir reminded the courts that the offence in question is not of criminal nature and as such the courts should have prioritised efforts to reform offenders. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, April 28 ― The Malaysian Bar expressed its concerns regarding the high number of citizens apprehended for breaking the movement control order (MCO).

In a statement, it also said it is worried about the disparity in sentencing between the common men and those with political influence, and is urging the courts to be more compassionate when handing out sentences.

“The Malaysian Bar is disturbed by accounts of excessive sentences and cases of disparity in sentencing between ordinary people and those with influence, in relation to persons who have violated the MCO.

“We acknowledge that the range of sentences handed down may well be within the ambit of the law, but the power of the Court to hand down sentences must be exercised judiciously in order to avoid any travesty of justice,” its president Salim Bashir said in a statement.

Salim reminded the courts that the offence in question is not of criminal nature and as such the courts should have prioritised efforts to reform offenders.

He also said thus far the government has not made public how many of the 20,011 arrested for violating the MCO are jailed, and warned that prisons are susceptible to spreading Covid-19 infection.

“Incarcerating someone in a crowded place will make it more difficult to contain the transmission of the Covid-19 virus. While violating the MCO should not be taken lightly, sending violators to jail is a cure that is worse than the disease,” added Salim.

“The Courts must administer justice with compassion and give due consideration to all mitigating factors that gave rise to the offence. It is justice that we must pursue and not simply punishment.”

Earlier this month, Putrajaya had gazetted 11 new temporary prisons to house those who were caught violating the MCO.

Deputy Health Minister I Datuk Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali, together with Perak executive councillor Razman Zakaria were fined RM1,000 each by a Magistrate’s Court today for defying the MCO.

However, the sentencing drew ire from the public as others who are in less fortunate conditions were instead arrested and detained in prisons for the same offence.

Meanwhile, Terengganu Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar and Terengganu Umno chief Datuk Seri Ahmad Said escaped charges for breaching the MCO after the Attorney General’s Chambers instructed no further action into the case.

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