Guideline allows comprehensive sentencing for S’wak wildlife crimes (Malaysia)


Desiree David, Borneo Post

Date Published

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KUCHING: Sarawak courts now have a comprehensive sentencing for wildlife crimes now that the ‘Sentencing Guidelines for Wildlife Crimes in Sarawak’ document has been launched.

Chief Justice of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Dato Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim was on hand to launch the document at the court complex here yesterday.

The Sentencing Guidelines for Wildlife Crimes is an initiative of the Sarawak High Court through Sarawak Working Group on Environment (SWGE), which started in 2020 with technical support from World Wildlife Fund-Malaysia (WWF-Malaysia).

According to WWF-Malaysia executive director Sophia Lim in her welcoming remarks presented by its conservation director Dr Henry Chan during the launch yesterday, the document was a significant progress in the state’s effort to address the challenges in meting out consistent and appropriate sentences on offenders of wildlife crime.

“The illegal wildlife trade is huge and is worth tens of billions, and globally, it ranks fourth after drugs, human trafficking, and arms trafficking.

“We are delighted that the courts in Sarawak are seeing the gravity of wildlife crimes and are doing their very best to improve their knowledge and help save our wildlife,” she said.

Lim also hoped that imposing a heavy penalty in appropriate cases would go a long way to deter wildlife crimes from recurring.

“Together with SWGE, we thank all participating agencies notably the state Attorney-General Chambers and Sarawak Forestry Corporation for providing valuable statistics and input during the formulation of the guideline,” she added.

The Environmental Court was established on Sept 3, 2012 to ensure uniformity of decision-making on environmental cases, besides improving the administration of justice in such cases.

Sentences meted out for wildlife crime cases by the courts however are inconsistent and therefore, insufficient to deter such crimes from recurring, which would result in potential irreversible loss of wildlife across Sarawak.

Therefore, a series of consultations to review the guideline were held this year involving the judiciary, wildlife law enforcement agencies, and environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The guidelines will assist judges pass fair and consistent sentences which commensurate with the nature of wildlife crime and also help advance the implementation of the environmental court in the state.

While these guidelines can be binding upon the courts, they are permitted to depart from the guidelines whenever appropriate and exercise judicial discretion on the sentencing.

Head of SWGE Judge Jason Juga, Sarawak Courts director Judge Steve Ritikos, and registrar of the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak Judge Nixon Kennedy Kumbong were also present at the launching ceremony.