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Second Environmental-Related Sentencing Guideline Launched

2 December 2021, Sandakan: The sentencing guideline for forest crimes was launched today by the Chief Justice of Sabah and Sarawak YAA Dato’ Abang Iskandar bin Abang Hashim. This is the second sentencing guideline that is related to the environment, following the first sentencing guideline for wildlife crimes that was launched in 2019. 

The launch of the guideline for forest crimes is a milestone in environmental protection in Sabah as it will provide support to the Environmental Court to enhance its sentencing where heavier and more consistent penalties are meted out to offenders, ensuring that the severity of the punishment is proportionate to the severity of the crime committed. 

The guideline will assist the court in reducing disparities in sentences in cases related to forest crimes in Sabah and therefore achieving uniformity and consistency. It takes into account the level of culpability of the offences, the level of harm caused by the accused, and the aggravating and mitigating factors presented by the prosecution and the accused. This will then ensure that the offender will receive fines that commensurate with the severity of their offences.

It is hoped that heavier fines will be a deterrent and warning to those who intend to commit the same offence.

The sentencing guideline supports the collective enforcement agencies’ efforts on the ground in ensuring the protection of the State’s forests and is in line with the Sabah Forest Policy 2018 that is aimed at strengthening forest enforcement and laws. 

The launch of the guideline is a result of a long-term collaboration between the Kota Kinabalu Court Working Group for Environment, the Sabah Forestry Department and WWF-Malaysia and it consultation with the Sabah Law Society, the Attorney General Chamber of Sabah, judges in Sabah as well as prosecution officers. 

WWF-Malaysia applauds the Sabah Judiciary on its efforts to further enhance the existing laws against environmental crimes and hopes that with this second sentencing guideline, would-be perpetrators will toe the line. 

WWF-Malaysia stresses the importance of protecting Sabah’s forests as the forest provides a myriad of benefits to communities. 

“The forest is a source of livelihood, protein, water, shelters and many more. Additionally, forests provide ecosystem services including watershed protection and serve as a buffer in natural disasters like floods and heavy rain. Perhaps most importantly, the forest helps mitigate climate change through its ability to absorb harmful greenhouse gases.

“This sentencing guideline will no doubt bolster our current efforts in safeguarding our forests. Through this guideline, we are reminding would-be offenders that a forest crime is a serious crime and that the government and non-governmental organisations like ourselves will stop at nothing to ensure that our forests and its wildlife continue to be protected,” said WWF-Malaysia Executive Director/ CEO, Ms. Sophia Lim.

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