The Council of State is considering proposing that the Cabinet move some criminal penalties to administrative jurisdiction due to an overabundance of laws and prison overcrowding.
The excessive number of laws undermines their importance, resulting in disrespect for the law, cases flooding the courts and overcrowding in prisons, Pokpong Srisanit, a member of the panel revising the criminal code, said at a public seminar on the principles on prescribing punishments in legislation on Wednesday.
The new Constitution, however, has opened a way to resolve those issues. Pokpong said that Article 77 stipulates that only severe cases should be regarded as criminal offences.
Hence, the Council of State panel is reviewing legislation in the criminal code, with the view to recommending that the Cabinet prescribe administrative penalties for minor offences, such as the violation of intellectual property law or wrongdoings regarding the illegal issuance of cheques, Pokpong said.
Any change would require new legislation, he added.
Pratan Wattanawanich, another legislator, pointed out the problem of an overabundance of laws and the lack of knowledge about administrative penalties even among officials.
In addition, the principles underpinning such penalties remained debatable, he said. So, most of the time, criminal penalties came out on top, Pratan explained.
“What makes this difficult is that if we propose to change some [offences] to administrative penalties, some officials may not get it,” he said. “Even as members of the Council of State we do not cover such principles. As a result, Thailand is full of criminal penalties.”
Article 77 of the new Constitution is an important step to bring about change to this, Pratan said.
Surasak Likasitwattanakul, another legislator sitting in the panel reviewing criminal legislation, said that a certain definition would be needed for the term “severe cases” to determine which offences would be penalised or not under which law.
Currently, there were no clear standards to determine which offences were criminal, he said.
The legislator proposed that what should be taken into consideration was whether or not the act impacted public interests and society at large. This would be based on the spirit of the law, the period of the legislation and the legal process.