Friday, June 6, 2008


Sentence. By itself, one would usually understand it to mean a phrase or a statement. However, if you mention the word “sentence” to a criminal court officer (a criminal court officer includes an officer who handles criminal courts) it would connote a different meaning. It means punishment or penalty or some legal consequences that may reduce one’s money or even validly curtail one’s personal liberty.

Ask any new Magistrate (or even a seasoned / senior magistrate) and they can vouch that sentencing is not an easy thing to do. Sitting alone on the bench with every single eye in the court looking at you is one thing. You don’t even have any freedom to fart sitting up there. The moment you tilt your body to one side, almost half of the public gallery and the lawyers would tilt their body with you.

It also doesn’t help that the person whom you are about to pass sentence is also there, waiting with his eyes filled with so much sorrow and remorse literally begging for your leniency. Although sometime you can tell that they are not that sincere but this “emotional presumption” is not a valid consideration in deciding the necessary sentence. This “emotional presumption” carries no legal reasoning in it. It’s useless and only serves to cloud your mind from fair reasoning.

You can go to any criminal procedure classes and learn the art of sentencing. I have been there and I can personally claim that I did quite well in that class (or so I thought I did!!). However, it would still not prepare you to face the pressure and tension that you face when you are all alone on the bench and about to pass a prompt sentence. It’s a challenge that can only be gained through experience. One heck of an experience that could cause a bloody turmoil in your stomach. Aiyooh!!!

There are so many issues, points, reasons and factors to consider in such a short span of time. This is more suitable for traffic cases where most of the accused persons plead guilty. Test him to see if he really wants to plead guilty. Tell him the maximum sentence and ask him if he is willing to face it. “RM 2000 + RM 1000 = RM3000. You mau and sanggup bayar RM3000 ka???” Most often than not, the moment you ask them this, their faces would turn red. You can see thousands of questions and factors being considered in his brain before you hear a weak and soft “yes Sir, I understand and am willing to plead guilty”. Then again, the minute you hear them say “yes”, it’s your turn to turn red and think of thousands of factors to be considered in assessing the appropriate sentence.

Some may say that it would be proper to postpone the sentence to another date, take the documents into your chambers and decide alone with God and not have any eyes staring at you while you contemplate. That’s a good idea when you’re still new. But after a while, whether you like it or not, you will have to deliver a prompt sentence. This is especially so for traffic offences.

The mitigating factor is what you need to rely in passing a lower sentence than the maximum sentence. I usually opt for a fine and have yet to deliver any imprisonment sentence. It’s not that I am lenient or soft hearted but I have yet the conviction in my heart that any jail term is necessary for my current cases. The amount to be fined is solely upon the discretion of the Magistrate. Hence the reason why I always vary my fine according to the mitigating facts and the charge sheet itself. This way, people cannot figure out my pattern. It’s important to remain mysterious. There are too many culprits just waiting to take advantage of a same pattern. Wooh!!! Scary!!!

Man! This is getting so boring and heavy! I’ll leave it here for now. I can just imagine what my bride would say when she reads this post. “There he goes again… talking about it like every one else share the same passion”… hehehe…

Blog adjourned!!!

1 obiter dictum:

Twiggy said...

huh? what? what did i say? heheheh...