Sabah court uses AI to sentence drug offenders

KOTA KINABALU: The magistrate’s courts here yesterday conducted proceedings with the help of artificial intelligence (AI) technology for the first time in the country.

The proceedings which involved two drug cases commenced at about 9.15am before Magistrate Jessica Ombou Kakayun, and were witnessed by Chief Justice of Malaysia Tan Sri Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, Chief Justice of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri David Wong Dak Wah, other judges, prosecutors and lawyers.

The first case involved an unemployed man who was jailed for nine months, as recommended by the AI technology whose verdict was displayed on court’s computers and a huge screen inside the court.

The accused Christopher Divingson Moinol, 26, entered the witness dock and his charge was explained to him.

Christopher pleaded guilty to possessing 0.16g of syabu that was committed by the roadside, Jalan Kampung Cenderamata in Likas on Oct 22, 2019.

The offence was framed under Section 12 (2) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 which carries a fine of up to RM100,000 or a jail term of up to five years or both, upon conviction.

In mitigation, probono counsel Hamid Ismail, who represented the accused, pleaded for his client be placed under a good behaviour bond.

Hamid said after discussion with his client, who actually asked for a fine, but they found that it was better to pay the bond with money than the fine.

The counsel also said that the bond, as punishment among others, was in the spirit of restoring justice as it is better for the accused to be outside and to reduce congestion in prison plus the weight of drug involved was merely 0.16g.

In reply, the prosecution pressed for a deterrent sentence in the form of custodial sentence since the offence committed by the accused is rampant in Sabah.

Upon hearing the mitigation and reply by the prosecution, the magistrate then opened the AI chart and displayed on the computers and screen.

The magistrate then keyed in the accused’s details as required by the AI such as weight of the drug, whether the accused had any previous conviction, his occupation, marital status and age.

After completing all the details, the magistrate clicked a button provided at the bottom of the chart to see what was the result of the analysis.

“Given the parameters, the AI recommends imprisonment of nine months, and this is based on a higher estimated probability of 52.56%,” the magistrate explained.

After looking at the AI probability, the accused was again asked if he was maintaining his plea of guilty.

In this case, the accused maintained his guilty plea and the court once again invited the parties to mitigate on the AI recommendation.

Both the defence and the prosecution said that they maintained their earlier submissions.

“After hearing from both parties and recommendation by AI, I hereby imposed nine months in jail on the accused to take effect from the date of his arrest,” ruled the magistrate. — TheBorneoPost