Lawmakers question tougher sentences proposed for drug crimes

Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Issue 497, Page 4
Word count: 509
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

The Standing Committee yesterday questioned the government’s justification of the bill which proposed tougher penalties for illicit drug crimes and said that current jail sentences were already “not lenient”.

The Legislative Assembly’s Second Standing Committee started the deliberation of the bill, namely “Prohibition of Illegal Production, Trafficking and Abuse of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances”, which is mainly to introduce longer jail sentences for offenders as the government said “the number of drug crimes had been on a rapid rise in Macau in recent years”.

However, president of the committee, Fong Chi Keong, said that such a statement “was not supported by any research” and thus opinions would need to be sought from relevant social organisations such as Caritas Macau in order to identify whether drug crimes were becoming more prevalent in Macau.

Fong said according to statistics of the Judiciary Police, drug related crimes only registered for about 10 cases in a year which he added was “contradictory” to the government’s claim.

The purpose of the revision, to “more effectively combat drug crimes” was “positive”, the lawmaker said, but at the same time he doubted the necessity of the “much tougher penalties” the bill proposed “which are even higher than committed abduction, terrorist activities or human trafficking”.

Fong said it could be effective to tackle drug crimes if police could reinforce inspection and raids in entertainment venues such as casinos, discos and karaoke lounges where “such kinds of illegal activities happen the most”, adding “if no authority is going to execute the law, however much more penalties the government wants to add will be useless”.

The bill suggested the jail sentence for drug abusers to be increased from three months to six months, whilst drug manufacturers could face up to 24 years in prison and traffickers for 15 years instead of 12 years at present.

The committee president said the proposed revision was “not consistent with Macau’s penalty scale” as jail sentences for terrorists or human trafficking and intentional murders are respectively 20 years and 25 years according to the Penal Code.

In addition, Fong said Macau “has no drug manufacturing centres” and thus the Standing Committee was concerned about why a maximum 24-year imprisonment was introduced for manufacturers.

On the other hand, the president said the proposal of a one to eight year imprisonment term for possessing illicit drugs showed “a wide discrepancy”, adding “whether an offender will be sentenced to one or eight years is to be determined by the judge’s mood at that moment”.

He also said that the government should take into consideration that cannabis and some cough medicines in many other countries were of legal possession and consumption.

The bill did not outline any special penalties for teenagers below 16 or with disabilities who were not liable for criminal charges, Fong said, adding many young people “were used by the others to carry drugs and thus should be treated as victims who need protection and proper education”.

Government representatives will attend the Standing Committee meetings next week to continue discussion on the bill.

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