Abolish minimum mandatory jail sentence for drunk driving, says NGO

Madpet says rehabilitation is a better remedy for those charged with being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. (Bernama pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: A human rights NGO has called for judges to have full discretion when sentencing drunk driving cases following the recent amendments to toughen the punishments for such offences, including a minimum seven year jail term for causing death or injury.

Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) said it would be a great injustice for someone on a drunk driving charge, who caused a minor injury, to be jailed for a minimum of seven years under amendments to the Road Transport Act 1987 (RTA).

“While Parliament may set the maximum sentence for particular crimes, it should never oust judicial power when it comes to sentencing by also imposing a mandatory minimum prison sentence.

“Judges and courts should be trusted to decide on the sentences after considering the relevant facts of each case,” the NGO said in a media statement today.

The Road Transport (Amendment) Bill 2020 was passed in the Dewan Rakyat on Aug 26 and will be tabled for the Senate’s approval before being sent to the King for royal assent to become the law.

This law will cover people who are under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

Drawing a comparison, Madpet said there are very serious crimes like corruption and abuse of power that affect all Malaysians badly, and as such, it may be unjust to mete out a harsh sentence on a first time drunk driving offender for causing injury to another.

“For corruption, a former prime minister was just sentenced six years for each of the four convictions, but if the RTA amendment is passed, a drunk driver that causes injury (not death) at the very least will be sentenced to seven years.

“Surely corruption and abuse of power by ministers and public servants requires a higher deterrent sentence,” Madpet said, adding that alcoholism and drug abuse should be viewed as a disease.

“Intoxication is a condition of having physical or mental control markedly diminished by the effects of alcohol or drugs, and is also now a recognised defence in criminal law.

“A period of rehabilitation may be a better remedy to alcohol and/or drug addicts, even when they have killed or injured another in a state of intoxication,” added the NGO.