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Malaysia: New Provisions on Plea Bargaining to Come into Force

(Dec. 23, 2010) On December 13, 2010, it was reported that a change in the Malaysian Criminal Procedure Code to include the concept of formal plea bargaining in criminal cases would soon be implemented by the courts. (Formal Plea Bargaining to Be Implemented Soon, Offering 50 Per Cent Reduction of Punishment, BERNAMA (Dec. 13, 2010), The amendment, which was passed by the Parliament in June 2010, guarantees a 50% reduction from the maximum sentence for an offense. The Attorney-General's Chambers is currently drafting guidelines relating to the new provisions, and these will be discussed with the courts and the Bar Council before they are implemented. (Id.)

According to the Chief Justice, Tun Zaki Azmi, plea bargaining does take place now, but this will become a more formal and standard procedure under the amendment. (Id.) Plea bargaining will only be offered within 30 days after a person has been charged, and the case would go to a full trial after 90 days if no agreement has been reached. Plea bargains will be an option in cases involving first-time offenders only, including for offenses for which the maximum penalty is death. (Id.) However, if there is a minimum sentence for the offense, a lesser term will not be available. (Yow Hong Chieh, Plea Bargaining to Come into Force Soon, Says Chief Justice, THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER (Dec. 13, 2010),

The Deputy Public Prosecutor will be able to determine whether or not to offer plea bargains in each case. Plea bargaining may also involve a reduction of the charges. (Id.) It will be the duty of the court to ensure that the plea bargain was entered into voluntarily by the parties. Judges will be able call the accused in camera to ensure that this has occurred. Once a sentence has been determined, neither the prosecution nor the defense will be able to appeal the decision, except on technical grounds. (BERNAMA, supra.)

The Chief Justice said that the concept of formal plea bargaining would expedite the disposal of criminal cases and reduce the backlog in the courts. (Id.) “With this, we hope more people will plead guilty instead of going for trial,” he said. (MALAYSIAN INSIDER, supra.)