Court of Appeal Reduces Jail Term in Church Arson Case

(Bernama) – The Court of Appeal today reduced from five years to two the jail sentence on two brothers found guilty by the Session Court for an arson attack on the Metro Tabernacle Church in Desa Melawati two years ago.

A three-man bench headed by Justice Datuk Wira Low Hop Bing said the Apex court agreed with the custodial sentence meted out to despatch rider Raja Muhammad Faizal, 25, and bank employee Raja Muhammad Idzham, 23, by the lower court and upheld by the High Court, but felt that the five-year term was excessive. 

He then ordered them to serve their sentence effective today. Both of them were on RM20,000 bail, respectively, pending the outcome of their appeal today.

The bench, which also had judges Datuk Abdul Malek Ishak and Datuk Ramly Ali, had arrived at a unanimous decision.

Justice Low said the court had taken into consideration the mitigation factor forwarded by counsel Salim Bashir, that the brothers were relatively young and first offenders. 

“Both courts below (sessions court and high court) had correctly applied the principle of corroborative evidence where both the accused had a common intention in committing the criminal act,” said Low. 

He said the court also had taken into consideration that no one was injured as a result of their action, and that the government had spent RM500,000 in repairing the church. 

Justice Low stressed that the court also needs to strike a balance between the interest of the public, where in criminal cases it calls for a deterrent sentence, and the interest of the accused.

The brothers were sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, respectively, after they were found guilty on Aug 13, 2010, by the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court for causing mischief by torching the church at Jalan 4/4C, Desa Melawati, at 11:50pm on Jan 7, 2010.

They were charged along with several others still at large.

On July 30, 2010, a friend of the brothers, Azuwan Shah Ahmad, 24, who was jointly charged with them, was freed by the Sessions Court without his defense being called.

The High Court, on May 27 last year, upheld the decision of the Sessions Court. 

Deputy Public Prosecutor Azlina Rasdi appeared for the prosecution.