Guideline on sentencing in wildlife crimes highlighted in new book

A group photo of judges and judicial officers after the launch of the 'Sentencing Guidelines for Wildlife Crimes in Sarawak' book.

By Dorcas Ting

KUCHING, June 16: Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Dato’ Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim said sentences imposed in wildlife crimes were considered to be somewhat inconsistent or inappropriate.

He said sentencing in wildlife crimes cases has been the subject of public scrutiny where sentences imposed were considered to be somewhat inconsistent, inappropriate as well as lenient when the high profits made and significant harm caused by the offences were taken into account.

“Wildlife forms a very important part of mother nature, an integral part of our ecosystem. Therefore its maintenance and conservation should be given utmost priority and it falls on everyone to play one’s role to achieve the goal.

“The judiciary like other institutions has a role to play in wildlife conservation and protection as well,” he said during the launching ceremony of the book ‘Sentencing Guidelines for Wildlife Crimes in Sarawak’.

Abang Iskandar said having a proper guideline on sentencing is a step in the right direction where it will help to reduce problems such as disproportionate and unjustified disparities in respect to sentences imposed on offenders.

He stressed that the guidelines do not interfere in the exercise of discretion of the court when passing a sentence.

The effectiveness of sentencing guidelines can be seen in two ways, which are through the experience of judges and judicial officers who use it in their daily court duty and secondly through a comprehensive study on the trend of sentencing imposed by the courts in past cases.

He also said that since 2012, with the initiative of former Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakari, Environmental Courts have been set up throughout Malaysia and environmental related programs have been organised to create awareness amongst judges and judicial officers.

He shared that the issuance or publication of sentencing guidelines has attracted divided opinions among members of the public and legal fraternity on its purpose and usage.

“Some have argued these structures unduly restrict a judge’s ability to appropriately weigh the factors that play a role in sentencing, while the proponents of the guideline feel that additional measures were welcome.” — DayakDaily