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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Ex-judge laments 'softer stand' in punishing corruption



Judges these days have a tendency to take a softer stand in sentencing individuals convicted of corruption, a senior ex-judge noted today.
"The judges are 'softer' because the society is also softer (tolerating corruption)," former Court of Appeal judge Mohd Noor Abdullah told reporters after attending the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Advisory Board meeting.
Mohd Noor, now a member of the advisory board, earlier argued that a fine imposed against individuals convicted for corruption is often much lower than the amount corrupted.
Among others, he cited as example, the case involving top officers from the Sabah Water Department who had allegedly siphoned RM2 billion from federal allocations meant for water infrastructure projects in the state.
In such cases, Mohd Noor pointed out that a fine imposed under the law will not amount to millions of ringgit.
"What is happening to our judges? Corruption cases involving money is punished with a fine, and (the convicted) can still profit.
"The punishment does not commensurate with the crime. They should be sent to jail," said Mohd Noor, who however, pointed out that a judge will have to take the middle ground according to arguements by the prosecution and defence.
While reiterating that judges remain independent in meting out sentences, Mohd Noor illustrated an example using a situation upon conviction where one lawyer is arguing a sentence against one DPP.
"The lawyer says, he (the accused) is a 24-year-old boy and supporting his 70-year-old father...have pity.
"The DPP then says, 'I leave it to you sir' (judge). Where is the fight? The DPP should question for proof," he said.
When presented with such mitigating factors without further arguments from the DPP, Mohd Noor said judges would often relent and deliver a lower sentence.
As such, he also proposed for the principles of sentencing when dealing with corruption cases should start from the harshest jail term to the lowest fine, instead of the current practice of starting from lowest to harshest.
'Media's role to educate public'
Mohd Noor, meanwhile, also advised the media to be more diligent in reporting details of a corruption case by explaining the judges' grounds of judgement.
He pointed out that the media has a tendency to highlight, for example, cases which had been thrown out but there were no details as to the reasons behind such decisions.- Mkini

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