Malaysia

Plea bargaining to come into force soon, says Chief Justice

By Yow Hong Chieh
December 13, 2010

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 13 — Plea bargaining will come into force “not long from now” once lawyers and judges have hammered out guidelines for its use in court, the Chief Justice has said.

“The guidelines are being drafted now. The Bar Council, the A-G (Attorney-General) and the courts are sitting together to draw up the guidelines,” Tun Zaki Azmi (picture) told reporters here at the Second Annual Conference of the Council of Judges in Malaysia.

“This will be implemented not long from now... With this, we hope more people will plead guilty instead of going for trial.”

Zaki, however, declined to say when exactly plea bargaining will take effect, saying it was up to the A-G to decide.

Amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code allowing plea bargaining were given royal assent on June 2 and gazetted on June 10.

An accused who plea bargains may not be sentenced to more than half the maximum punishment under the law for the offence he has pleaded guilty to.

However, where there is a minimum term of imprisonment provided by law, the accused shall not be sentenced to a lesser term than what has been set out.

Besides sentence reduction, plea bargaining may also involve amending charges against the accused to lesser ones.

Zaki explained that it was up to the deputy public prosecutor to determine whether or not to offer plea bargains, and to what extent.

“It’s up to the DPP. If the DPP thinks he’s got a very strong case... and this is a very serious crime, why should he offer to [plea bargain]? He might as well go for the maximum,” he said.

While most cases were being disposed of quickly, Zaki revealed that criminal cases were “not moving that fast”, saying that steps to address this backlog will be discussed at the conference.

“We’re not very happy with that. Sentencing, policy, all that we will discuss,” he said.

“But, aside from that, the courts are moving well, as you all can see.”