Death penalty won’t be totally abolished, committee tells victims’ families

Families and representatives of the murder victims at a press conference after meeting with the special committee looking into abolishing the mandatory death penalty.

PETALING JAYA: The special committee looking into the abolishment of the mandatory death penalty has assured the families of murder victims that the court will still have the discretionary powers to decide on whether to impose the sentence.

The statement is in response to views expressed by the families at a press conference yesterday.

The families of the victims had urged the government to retain the mandatory death penalty for heinous crimes or premeditated killings involving the loss of lives.

The Special Committee on the Study of the Alternative Sentence to the Mandatory Death Sentence said abolishing the mandatory death penalty did not mean a total abolition of the death penalty.

“The death penalty may still be imposed if the court finds it appropriate based on the facts of the case,” it said.

Yesterday, lawyer Christina Teng who represented the victims’ families, said if the mandatory death sentence was abolished, judges might not sentence a criminal to death, as they would often opt for the lesser sentence.

She added that yesterday’s engagement session with the committee was merely “lip service”.

The victims’ families had also called for a public referendum to be held before any decision was made on the matter.

The special committee, set up in August last year, said yesterday’s session was held as part of a “holistic engagement process“.

“In this regard, the special committee is committed and focused on the views and opinions of all stakeholders received throughout the engagement sessions, so that the findings can be analyzed and submitted to the government for further action.”

The recommendations from the study will be presented to the Cabinet in the first quarter of 2020, it added.

Previously, de facto law minister Liew Vui Keong said the government was waiting for a report on the recommended alternatives to the death sentence from the special committee.

It was reported that the review would include the mandatory death penalty for 11 serious offences under the Penal Code, including murder, and the Firearms (Increased Penalties) Act.

The abolition of the death penalty was one of the promises in the Pakatan Harapan’s manifesto.