Tougher penalties proposed for drug producers, traffickers

Saturday, June 14, 2008
Issue 374, Page 3
Word count: 522
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

Drug makers and traffickers may face 15 years in jail under tougher new penalties proposed by the government.

The Executive Council announced yesterday the new bill which is to replace the 17-year-old law.

The bill will punish “illegal drug production” with maximum jail sentences to be increased from 12 to 15 years and minimum from one to five years for offenders found producing drugs such as heroin, ecstasy, ketamine, cocaine and cough medicine codeine.

As for illegally producing psychotropic substances such as sleeping pills, offenders will be given two to eight years in jail instead of the existing penalty of one to two years.

In addition, the bill suggests the criminalisation of the possession of facilities and materials for illicit drugs production with a six month jail sentence or 60 day of equivalent fine for such an offence.

Meanwhile, offenders caught trafficking narcotic drugs will be sentenced to three to 15 years in prison, instead of one to 12 years.

The bill proposes tougher penalties for selling drugs to children or dealing drugs in areas where children study or play. The standard sentence will be increased by one third in such cases, said the Executive Council spokesperson yesterday.

The new law will also offer assistance to those addicted to illegal drugs.

The council studied the legal systems of neighbouring countries such as Hong Kong and Singapore.

Director of the Legal Affairs Bureau (DSAJ), Cheong Weng Chon, said in a press conference yesterday that a drug dependent person is considered a “patient needing social assistance” according to the International Law and Comparative Law.

The proposed bill states that a convicted drug user could have the sentence suspended if they agree to comply with certain social obligations or rules of conduct.

This regulation, Mr Cheong said, can help drug addicts recover their normal lives in the community.

As well, the DSAJ director said the proposed bill will see an existing “small amount” clause abolished, which has been used by lawyers to reduce their defendants’ sentences.

The existing law defines “a small amount” as not exceeding the total amount of drugs a person will consume in three days, which Mr Cheong said is very “vague” and hard to determine scientifically due to individual differences.

However traffickers of a “small quantity” of drugs could see their jail sentences greatly reduced to one to two years, he said.

The bill also suggests the strengthening of tools of criminal investigation in order to combat cross-regional or international drug crimes.

As Mr Cheong said there is an increasing number of cases in Macau in which people smuggle drugs by inserting them into their bodies to avoid customs and police detection, the government proposes that police and customers officers should have the authority to conduct body searches.

People who don’t submit to the search will be liable to a maximum jail sentence of two years or 240 day of equivalent fines.

In Hong Kong the maximum penalty for drug trafficking is a life sentence, while in Taiwan, mainland China and Singapore the death penalty can be handed down.

The proposal will now be sent to the Legislative Assembly for deliberation.

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