Reform child sexual offenders in jail, say lawyers

Reuters pic.

PETALING JAYA: Lawyers have urged the government to draw up programmes to rehabilitate individuals convicted of sexual crimes against children during their time in prison.

Speaking to FMT, they said it was pointless to impose long jail terms which could see such criminals dying behind bars, comparing this to natural life imprisonment.

Kitson Foong said heavy sentences were often imposed to serve as a deterrent to would-be offenders.

He said the courts would take into consideration the witness impact statement of victims before deciding on the measure of punishment.

“They take public interest into account first, which is why long prison terms are imposed as intended by the legislature.”

This meant that the private interest of the accused came last in court proceedings, he said, adding that it was up to the prison authorities to draw up rehabilitation programmes as the convicts would be incarcerated for a long time.

He was responding to a recent Court of Appeal decision to reduce the jail term of a former lorry attendant for sexually assaulting his underage daughter.

The 51-year-old man had been sentenced in the trial court to 75 years in jail for five offences. This was reduced to 49 years, with the court maintaining the eight strokes of the rotan.

Foong said the accused would likely be in prison for 32 years if he received a one-third deduction of term for good behaviour.

“He will be in his 80s, and that would be a natural life imprisonment for him,” he added.

He called on the home ministry and Welfare Department to draw up sufficient rehabilitation programmes, saying the prison must be a “correctional facility” to help sexual offenders turn over a new leaf.

He said he was made to understand that the Pakatan Harapan government was in the midst of preparing a register of sexual offenders so that their movements and activities could be monitored after their release.

Lawyer Salim Bashir meanwhile said the law allowed judges to impose a maximum 30-year jail sentence to punish sexual offenders.

“Since most of the offenders against children and teenagers commit multiple crimes, the jail term becomes longer as the court can order sentences to run consecutively,” he added.

He suggested that such offenders be allowed to serve a minimum jail term and rejoin society to become better and productive citizens.

“We should also educate and create public awareness on sexual crimes and inculcate good values by introducing a holistic education system in schools,” he said.

However, N Sivananthan said the public preferred that sexual offenders, especially those who target children, be removed from society to spend long years behind bars.

“The public is happy to see them locked up and the keys thrown away as these sexual predators must be isolated from society.

“They have ruined the lives of their victims, who will have to endure the trauma of the experience for the rest of their lives,” he said, adding that he believed it was justifiable for offenders to be severely punished.