Monday, August 4, 2008

A fine too many (or much)...





A fine is probably the best way to punish a small time offender. There is no point putting one behind bars for minor traffic offences like beating a red light, double parking, expired road tax / insurance etc. In Malaysia, most of these minor offences are dealt with under the general section for punishment under S. 119 of the Road Transport Act 1987(RTA). S. 119 provides for a maximum fine of RM 2000 or imprisonment for not more than 6 months. Common offences like road tax and insurance have their own specific section under the RTA.

If you speak to the enforcement officers, they would tell me that they want a heavy fine. Apparently, some of the fines can be paid at the Traffic Police Station or the Road Transport Department. The catch is that there can be only a minimum limit of discount available there. The Courts however, have a huge discretion to either further reduce the fine or to increase it. This depends on the mitigating factors submitted by the offender (should they plead guilty).

The informal rule of thumb is to grant 10% of the maximum fine. I was also told of a case law that demands for 10% of the maximum fine of the punishment if the case went for full trial. For example, if the maximum fine is RM2000, after full trial, the Court would grant RM 1800, than should the offender pleaded guilty at the first instance, a fine of RM180 would be imposed.

Again, I stress that these are mere informal guidelines. At the end of the day, the final amount ranges from case to case and circumstances to circumstances. Sometimes, I sentence them to only RM50 and at times it can balloon up to RM400. I like to keep a very random figure in my sentence. I have been asked to give a round number like RM50, 100, 150 etc by my prosecuting officer as it is quite a hassle to get the exact change. I think RM60, 70, 80, 90,110,120,130,140 are also round numbers. I cannot limit my discretion on that score. I like it that my sentences are random. People cannot guess what they would get in my Court. Besides, I have a valid reason for varying my fines.

Apparently, it has been known that it is easy to make “money” at the traffic court. Say the maximum fine is RM2000, some irresponsible bugger explains to the offender that he can talk to the Magistrate to give only RM200 fine but the offender must pay RM300. RM25 will be for himself and RM75 is for the Magistrate. The poor chap, thinking he is about to get a discount of RM 1700 agrees and pays the bugger RM300. The Magistrate, not knowing about the secret deal behind him, fines the offender RM200. Now the Magistrate’s name and integrity is in jeopardy. (Hey, it rhymes...)

The moment I got in here, I made sure that I do not, under any circumstances, tolerate corruption. I think I have made myself quite clear with my staff, police and prosecuting officers. I also keep a close look out inside and outside my Court for any wrongful act. That’s the least I could do. Other than that, I make daily prayer’s from the Big One up There to help me against those who make false accusation (fitnah).

Someone told me that if I ever accept bribery, even for just one time, I’d have my balls gripped by some unknown force to be used against me at anytime. Ouch!!! Me no likey… I told him that if anyone wants to bribe me for a sum less than 1 Million, I’d say it’s too little. If it’s more than 1 Million, I’d say it’s too much… So go fly kite…

Blog adjourned!

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