Use discretion in charging low-level MCO offenders, says rights group

Those who violate the movement control order can be jailed up to six months, fined a maximum of RM1,000, or both.

PETALING JAYA: Rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) today urged the authorities to exercise discretion when arresting and charging people for breaching the movement control order (MCO), voicing concern over minor violations which it said do not put the wider public at risk of infection.

It gave the example of the single mother whose 30-day jail sentence was overturned and replaced with a RM1,000 fine after she had served eight days behind bars.

“By arresting, charging and sentencing individuals without due regard to the individual circumstances of their case, the risk is that the enforcement of the MCO will cause greater hardship, trauma and risk of infection instead of achieving its original aims.

“If the authorities want to have the trust and cooperation of the public, this is not the way to secure it. What is needed is consistency in enforcement, uniformity in treatment and a focus on the most aggravated breaches of the MCO,” LFL legal coordinator Zaid Malek said.

In a statement, he said the number of arrests for breaching the MCO was alarming, at over 20,000 to date.

“[This is] despite the fact that levels of compliance are known to be very high, even up to 99% according to the inspector-general of police,” he added.

“These actions go against international guidance on detention during the Covid-19 pandemic and the very purposes of the MCO, namely to implement social distancing and break the chain of infection.

“Overcrowded prisons and detention facilities make it impossible for detainees and staff to practise social distancing, so incarcerating greater numbers of low-level offenders increases the risk of Covid-19 for the entire population.”

Those who breach the MCO can be fined RM1,000, jailed up to six months, or both.

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