Saturday 13 October 2012

Statutory rape: Provision to disallow reduced sentences to be tabled in Parliament

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 13 — The government will soon table in Parliament a provision disallowing judges from exercising their discretionary power to reduce the sentence given to statutory rapists, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, following an uproar on the light sentences received by two men convicted of having sex with their barely pubescent girlfriends.

If passed, it will be added to section 376 of the Penal Code, which prescribes a mandatory jail sentence for those convicted of statutory rape.

According to a Star Online report today, Nazri (picture), who is the de facto law minister, said the provision would state that section 294(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code, which gives the judge discretionary power to reduce or give a lighter sentence to the accused, would not apply.

“If passed, the provision will mean that judges cannot give lighter sentence in the case of statutory rape.

“I have spoken to the Attorney-General on the provision and he has agreed; therefore it will be tabled in the next Parliament sitting,” he was reported as saying at a press conference in Padang Renggas, Perak today.

Nazri said the additional provision was important as it would protect minors.

The minister had last month said the government was considering setting up a sentencing council to ensure the streamlining of criminal punishment meted out by the courts.

"The government believes that a sentencing council can be put in place but not a committee to review court decisions," Nazri told Parliament on September 25.

"It is dangerous if we have a review system as this will create another tier in the legal system. This is because there is a committee higher than the courts to review their decision," he said then.

Nazri further said the proposed sentencing council would only look at streamlining court sentences and not revisit cases to review judgments.

The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) has also backed amendments to the law to inflict tougher penalties on convicted child rapists.

“The department’s stand is that rape cases require deterrent sentencing to reflect the abhorrence and revulsion of the public towards such crimes.

“This aberration of justice for those who most need the protection of law must be rectified,” the AGC said in a statement on September 5.

In August, former national bowler Noor Afizal Azizan and electrician Chuah Guan Jiu who were bound over for five years and three years respectively on a RM25,000 good behaviour bond each after being found guilty of statutory rape.

In both cases, the judges had stated that they had taken the “bright futures” of both men into consideration as well as the fact the sex acts were consensual.

The AGC added that it had filed an appeal against the Penang Sessions Court’s decision on August 29 for Chuah’s case and that it was considering the use of the court’s inherent power to review the decision in Noor Afizal’s case.

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