PETALING JAYA: DAP today criticised the 15-month jail term for a religious teacher convicted of sexual offences against children, labelling it “grossly inadequate” and “clearly disproportionate”.
The deputy chair for Selangor DAP Wanita, Sangeet Kaur Deo, also urged the Attorney-General’s Chambers to appeal against the sentence, which she said did not do justice to the victims and their families.
Sangeet, daughter of the late Karpal Singh, said the sentence meted out by the Ampang Magistrate’s Court on Zahari Alwi failed to reflect the seriousness of the offences, particularly against children who were helpless and vulnerable placed in his care.
Zahari, 56, who operates a welfare centre in Kuala Lumpur, recently pleaded guilty to two charges which involved allegations of insulting the modesty of a person and having possession of an obscene film.
Zahari was alleged to have watched a 10-year-old girl using the bathroom in December 2015. Police later discovered a pornographic video of the victim on the suspect’s laptop in January the following year.
The magistrate handed down a sentence of 15 months’ imprisonment for the first charge and 13 months’ imprisonment for the second charge, and ordered the sentences to run concurrently.
Sangeet said the maximum sentence for the first charge is imprisonment of not more than five years or fine or both, while the maximum sentence for the second charge is imprisonment of not more than five years or fine of not more than RM50,000.00.
“Such lenient sentences would not be an effective deterrent against would-be sexual predators and paedophiles,” she said in a statement, adding that heavier sentences were needed in the interest of the children.
Sangeet went on to state that the seriousness of such offences was acknowledged by Parliament which had enacted the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017 to tackle such crimes.
The court, therefore, she said, had the responsibility to ensure fairness and justice is served and deliver a sentence that is proportionate to the seriousness of the offence committed.
Innocent children, Sangeet said, must be protected not only by way of legislation but by way of effective enforcement as well.
“Severe punishment is needed to deter other members of the public from committing similar offences.”