PETALING JAYA: A criminologist has lauded as “fair and just” a 12-month jail sentence imposed on a road bully who smashed the front windscreen of a car.
Magistrate Nurshahira Abdul Salim handed down the jail sentence yesterday on Danial Abdullah Tan, 31, who pleaded guilty to the charge.
He was charged with committing mischief by using his helmet to smash the front windscreen of a Perodua Axia car belonging to Siew Chean Voon, 58, causing damage of about RM600.
Danial had told the court that he was riding his motorcycle when the car came and almost rammed into his machine. He said he saw the driver making a gesture at him. In anger, he smashed the car windscreen.
The act was recorded by the car driver using his dashcam camera and the video recording went viral on social media.
Universiti Sains Malaysia Associate Prof P Sundramoorthy told FMT that “the magistrate in this case has understood well the issue of road bullies and its impact on law-abiding road users. ”
He said the sentence was the type of criminal justice that is much needed in the nation.
“Our criminal justice system, in this case, must be praised for its clarity in action related to detection and arrest of the perpetrator, the certainty of prosecution and the severity of punishment imposed.
He disagreed with lawyer Haniff Khatri Abdulla who had said that the perpetrator should not be liable to imprisonment and, on the contrary, a penalty was sufficient enough.
Sundramoorthy said people should not tolerate any form of aggression and violence in society. Mandatory prison sentence must be imposed on all violent offenders, he added.
“In addition to imprisonment, a few strokes of the rotan will not hurt as well for all violent offenders.”
He hoped this case will send a very clear and resounding message to all in society that people do not tolerate any form of abuse, aggression or violence by all road users, especially road bullies.
He said in recent years, the number of road bully cases appeared to have increased and drawn tremendous public attention and concern.
“The major issue of road bullies is about verbal abuse, aggression and violence. This amounts to vigilantism and, if condoned, the consequences can lead to serious injuries and death.
“Furthermore, all road users, both potential bullies and law-abiding drivers, must be aware that helmets, hockey sticks, baseball bats, rotans and other sports or household instruments can become lethal weapons when wrongly used under certain circumstances.
“In reality, the probability of the use and storage of such potential lethal weapons in vehicles only increases the chances of both parties (road bullies and victims) resorting to aggression and violence when facing a conflict situation.”
Sundramoorthy said in this case, the magistrate had imposed a very appropriate sentence, as allowed by law.
He said he is fairly certain there would have been a public outcry that the sentence was too lenient and non-deterrent if the magistrate had only imposed a fine, without a prison sentence, in this case.
On the recent call for judges to be given guidelines on sentencing, Sundramoorthy said: “The necessity to study the implementation of sentencing guidelines for the judiciary is to avoid controversy regarding unfair and unjust sentences.”
A criminal lawyer, Rajsurian Pillai, said he agreed with Haniff that a fine would have been sufficient in this road rage case “if the person had pleaded guilty and asked the court to impose a fine”.
“As far as possible, don’t send offenders to prison. Have a look at the goal of sentencing.”
However, he said it was possible for any magistrate to jail a road bully as it is perfectly within their powers.
Another lawyer, Cyrus Tiu Foo Woei, said in normal circumstances, the court will consider both aggravating factors and mitigating factors in coming to a decision on sentencing.
“The court may give due consideration to the fact that the offender has repented and is remorseful.
“Whether or not the accused offered to pay back the damage done to the vehicle and apologised to the victim for the damage will be taken into consideration.”
He said the video on the smashing of the windscreen suggested that the accused was particularly violent.
He added that the road bully could appeal to the High Court for a lower sentence.
“Usually, for a first offender who has pleaded guilty for a minor offence, the magistrate or judge will not give a custodial sentence but rather a fine.
“However, if there is violence involved, then the judge will be more likely to give a custodial sentence as a deterrence to others.”
This article first appeared on FMT.