By Khairah N. Karim | Sinar Daily
Death row inmates should be granted a chance to have their sentences reviewed by the court, say criminal lawyers.
This follows the government’s decision to abolish the mandatory death penalty.
Lawyer Joshua Tay said although the death penalty was not abolished completely, it was only fair that all death row inmates be given the same opportunity to be resentenced.
He said a special panel of judges should also be set up to decide on the resentencing.
“Death row inmates should be granted a chance to have their sentences reviewed.
“It is only fair for them to be given the same opportunity to be resentenced.
“Although judges would still have discretion whether to impose (an accused) the death sentence, I think all of them (inmates) should have the benefit of the reform,” he told Sinar Daily.
Meanwhile, lawyer Datuk Sheelan Arjunan said inmates who are on death row could apply for their sentences to be reviewed under Rule 137 of the Rules of the Federal Court 1995.
He noted that capital offences were serious in nature and that the sentences imposed on such offences could not be lenient.
However, he said it would be appropriate to replace the mandatory death sentence with life imprisonment with the possibility of parole.
He said he welcomed the government’s move to abolish the mandatory death sentence as the current law which allows for mandatory death punishment violates the condemned person’s right to life besides being fundamentally inhuman and degrading.
“This decision by the government is certainly great news for the accused charged with capital punishment cases.
“However, it must be stressed that the death sentence is not abolished absolutely and the court can still impose death sentence until and unless it is impressed upon reasons as to why the accused’s life should be spared,” he said when contacted.
He said this would also increase the duty of the judge in meting out the correct and adequate sentence to be imposed in each case.
Yesterday, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Parliament) Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar announced that the government has agreed to abolish the mandatory death penalty and substitute sentences at the discretion of the courts.
He said the decision on the matter was reached following his presentation of a report on Substitute Sentences for the Mandatory Death Penalty at the Cabinet Meeting, on Wednesday (June 8).
However, these amendments would still need to be tabled and passed in Parliament before they take effect.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob explained that the death penalty will remain and not be abolished, and the change is only on the fact that judges are now given discretion in sentencing.