Malaysian judiciary makes history, uses AI in sentencing

Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Malaysia Tan Sri Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat (left) and Chief Justice of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri David Wong in a press conference after witnessing the AI application in sentencing at Sabah Court. NSTP/OLIVIA MIWIL. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

KOTA KINABALU, Feb 20, 2020, NST. The Malaysian judiciary made history today by employing Artificial Intelligence (AI) in sentencing in two drug cases – but not without objection from the defence, New Straits Times reported.

Counsel Hamid Ismail raised the objection before Magistrate Jessica Ombou Kakayun in defence of his client Denis Modili who was charged under Section 12(2) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 with possession of 0.01gm of methamphetamine at Kampung Kobusak in Penampang on Dec 16 last year.

“The Court should confine its mind to materials available in the court.

“Although the court has discretion to decide whether to use AI or not, I fear it might affect the court’s thinking in sentencing,” he said.

Jessica replied that the use of AI would aid in decision-making, using data based on arguments made by the defence and prosecution.

She said that the AI would analyse a database of cases between 2014 and 2019 in Sabah and Sarawak before delivering recommendations to the court.

Denis, a 43-year-old father of seven, received 12 months’ jail, to run concurrently with an 8-month jail sentence he is currently serving for another drug case.

Earlier today Jessica also sentenced another accused, Christopher Divingson Mainol, 26, to nine months’ jail, also for a case of drug possession. He had 0.16 gm of methamphetamine at Kampung Cenderamata in Likas on Cct 22 last year.

He, too, was represented by Hamid.

The AI had recommended 10 months’ jail to Denis and 9 months’ jail to Christopher after parameters such as the sections under which they are charged, age, employment, and socio-economic data were entered into the system.

During the court proceedings Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri David Wong was present in court.

Later at a press conference Wong said he was satisfied with the process and had expected objections to be made against the use of AI in the judicial system.

“When we launched it, we expected it to be challenged but we have to take it as it comes.

“The lawyers are entitled to make objections. It (AI) is a new tool for the court. Unless it is tested in the court, we will not know whether it is constitutional or not,” he said.

Wong said those who are charged would also have the chance to change their plea, upon being informed on the possible sentences shown by the AI before a decision was reached by the judge.

He also said the AI, which would be used in Sabah and Sarawak courts, would help to save the judge’s time in referring to past cases manually. The system is expected to provide improved analysis and consistent recommendations.

As of now, the AI system is used for cases of drug possession under Section 12 of the Dangerous Drug Act and rape under Section 376 of the Penal Code.

“We are in the process of doing it for civil cases related to motor accidents on awarding damages for injuries, hopefully in three to six months.

“It is a useful tool for the judiciary. Before going to trial, both sides will be able to know the award of damages, thus lawyers can negotiate to achieve settlements before they come to court.”

Also present at the press conference was Chief Justice Tan Sri Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat.

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