‘Limit court’s discretion on death penalty’


A LEGAL think-tank has urged local MPs to exercise diligence when debating proposed amendments to the General Laws Amendment (GLA) Bill claiming it carried clauses which were likely to bring back the death penalty.


In its latest Bill Watch report, Veritas said the clauses were enshrined in the Criminal Law Code.

Veritas said legislators should demand separate amendments to the Criminal Code instead of allowing it to be included in the omnibus General Laws Amendment Bill.

The GLA Bill is currently at its Second Reading Stage in the National Assembly and will collectively deal with amendments to about 126 pieces of legislation to be aligned with the Constitution, including the Criminal Law Code.

“In fact the amendments (to the Criminal Law Code) should have been made in a separate Bill rather than added to an omnibus Bill (General Laws Amendment Bill),” the Veritas report said.

“The Bill will amend section 47 of the Code to reintroduce the death penalty for murder, and the Bill purports to lay down circumstances which a court must regard as aggravating and so justifying the imposition of the death penalty.”

The death penalty had been outlawed by the Constitution and the proposed amendments to the Code within the GLA Bill were said to allow the courts to decide for themselves what amounted to murder in aggravating circumstances.

Veritas suggested that Parliament should limit the court’s discretion on the issue.

On sexual offences, the think-tank said the GLA Bill also proposed to insert a provision in section 70 of the Code to the effect that young persons over 12 but less than 16 years who engaged in sexual intercourse with consent must not be prosecuted for the crime of sexual intercourse with another young person unless a probation officer had recommended prosecution.

“This provision will not prevent young people being prosecuted altogether, but will simply require a probation officer to recommend it. Similar amendments should be made to other sections of the Code to stop very young persons being inappropriately prosecuted.

“The law regarding sexual crimes must be looked at as a whole. The whole law on this topic should be reconsidered to ensure that it meets changing attitudes of society while at the same time, and above all, protecting children from abuse,” Veritas said.