In association with the Bar Council Malaysia, the DPP today launched a report of the findings of a public opinion survey on the mandatory death penalty. The event, held at the Bar Council Malaysiawas attended by over 100 guests including the Chief Justice of Malaya, senior members of the judiciary, lawyers, members of the diplomatic community, academics and NGOs.
In October 2012, the DPP commissioned Professor Roger Hood, Professor Emeritus of Criminology at the University of Oxford, to design and analyse the findings of a public opinion survey on the mandatory death penalty in Malaysia. The survey of a representative sample of 1,535 Malaysian citizens from all over the country, was carried out by Ipsos Malaysia, a leading market research company.
The research was designed to elicit views on the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking, murder and offences under the Firearms Act. By using a series of scenarios it shows the extent to which members of the public support the mandatory death penalty when faced with the reality of having to judge whether the crime merits the death penalty.
Saul Lehrfreund and Parvais Jabbar, Executive Directors of The Death Penalty Project, said: “This study, for the first time, provides unique data from a large scale and detailed analysis of the views of the general public on the mandatory death penalty in Malaysia. The findings suggest that there would be little public opposition to abolition of the mandatory death penalty, in particular for drug trafficking, murder and firearms offences. We hope that this evidence will urge the Malaysian Government to consider legislative reform – in line with both public sentiment and international human rights standards.”
Summary of findings
In Malaysia, the death penalty is the mandatory and, thus, the only punishment available to the courts for persons convicted of murder; for trafficking in narcotics in various amounts; and for discharging a firearm during the commission of various crimes, even if no-one is hurt. There is a growing political and public debate. Should the mandatory death penalty be abolished and replaced by a discretionary system where capital punishment is used only in exceptional circumstances, or abolished altogether? This study reports the findings of a major public opinion survey of the views of a representative sample of 1,535 Malaysian citizens on this issue. A large majority said they were in favour of the death penalty, whether mandatory or discretionary: 91% for murder, 74 to 80% for drug trafficking depending on the drug concerned, and 83% for firearms offences. Concerning the mandatory death penalty, a majority of 56% said they were in favour of it for murder, but only between 25% and 44% for drug trafficking and 45% for firearms offences.
When asked to say what sentences they would themselves impose on a series of ‘scenario’ cases, all of which were subject to a mandatory death sentence, a large gap was found between the level of support ‘in theory’ and the level of support when faced with the ‘reality’:
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