No more concurrent sentences for convicts 

(The Star) – Anyone found guilty of multiple offences will now have to serve time for each crime consecutively, with concurrent sentences disallowed under amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code.

For example, a person convicted of housebreaking and theft will have to serve out the sentence for each offence one after another.

And since housebreaking and theft carry a maximum of two years and seven years jail respectively, the person could end up behind bars for nine years.

The new paragraph (e) of Section 282 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Amendment) Bill 2013 states: “When a person is convicted at one trial of any two or more offences, the court shall not order the sentences to run concurrently.”

The Bill was tabled for first reading in the Dewan Rakyat on Wednesday.

Another proposed amendment in the Bill takes away from judges the discretion to apply Section 294, which deals with youthful first offenders.

With the amendment, a judge will no longer have the discretion to release such offenders on probation of good conduct if there is a minimum penalty provided for the offence.

This amendment came about after public outcry over what people perceived to be lenient sentences involving the rape of minors, although there is a mandatory five years minimum jail term.

Retired Court of Appeal judge Datuk K.C. Vohrah said the discretion on whether to impose a concurrent or consecutive sentence usually fell to magistrates and Sessions Court judges because the cases were mainly before them.

“They would impose a concurrent sentence if several offences of the same nature were committed at the same time or two or three offences were disclosed in one transaction.

“The accused would be sentenced for each offence but currently the court can order the sentences to run together, that is, the offender serves the longest sentence.”

He added that the High Court normally tried capital offences but occasionally the Public Prosecutor might “apply for a case to be tried by a High Court judge although it was triable in the lower court”.

Datuk Shaik Daud Ismail, another retired Court of Appeal judge, said judges could impose concurrent sentences after taking into account the facts of the case and mitigating circumstances.

He was against doing away with concurrent sentences. “It’s not right to restrict a judge’s discretion,” he said.

The two old friends disagreed on removing judicial discretion where a minimum penalty was stated.

While Vohrah is comfortable with this proposed amendment, Shaik Daud said: “A judge should be able to take into account whether the offender is a first timer in sentencing regardless of the penalty.”

“I’m aware that the public was upset when some judges meted out relatively lenient sentences in serious cases but taking away their discretion for all cases is not the way to do it.”