Fri, Jan 28, 2000 - Page 12 News List

Gangsters should be kept behind bars

By Chu Tai-san

In the past, some targets of the Chih-ping Project (治平專案) -- a special anti-crime operation aimed at cracking down on and eliminating gangsterism -- have been able to run in elections or campaign for others by winning release on bail for medical treatment.

These campaign activities have helped them launder their pasts and win the protection of political figures. Legal ambiguities have allowed candidates with criminal backgrounds to deceive the general public, trample judicial integrity and destroy the democractic process.

Defendants on medical leave have often engaged in activities incompatible with the grounds for their bail. The situation was particularly prevalent in the 1998 election for county councilors and county and township magistrates.

As many as eight defendants arrested under the Chih-ping Project ran in that election. I heard stories about how the bony and frail former Chiayi County Deputy Speaker Nien Chung-jen(粘仲仁) managed to rally for the county magistrate election.

We often saw scenes on TV of a feeble and frail detainee leaving the courthouse in a wheelchair, only to subsequently witness his almost instantaneous and miraculous recovery and gleeful participation in protests against judicial injustice. Those scenes were indeed unforgettable.

The trouble was that the law did not mandate a return to custody of detainees on medical leave who recovered or whose health improved markedly.

To deal with detainees who were "worms while in detention, but turned into dragons once out on bail" (看所所是一條蟲,保外卻成一條龍) our Criminal Litigation Code (刑事訴訟法) has been amended to provide judges with the authority to prohibit a defendant from engaging in activities unrelated to medical treatment without obtaining prior consent.

Another amendment mandates that a defendant who has been granted bail must comply with certain conditions or else be returned to custody.

That amendment also provides that if the reason for granting medical leave to a felony defendant no longer exists, then the court may order the defendant returned to custody.

These amendments are quite important to the pursuit of justice and equality, as well as the effective enforcement of law.

However, they also make one wonder whether the courts have been careless about granting medical leave.

Otherwise, how could someone who has been afflicted with so serious a disease that it would be incurable unless he or she were placed on medical leave recuperate in such a short period of time?

Either the defendant was physically superior and therefore capable of a fast recovery, or the grounds for medical leave never existed.

It is very hard to not wonder about the reasons behind the courts' decisions for granting bail. Was "black gold" or political favoritism a factor? The courts appeared to have forgotten the purpose of detention.

According to Article 101 of the Criminal Litigation Code, if a judge has good reasons to suspect that the defendant is either guilty, may escape, might destroy evidence or try to obtain collusive testimony, then the defendant may be placed in custody before the court reaches a verdict.

If a court failed to seriously scrutinize a request for bail in the first place, even if the defendant is returned to detention, he or she might have already destroyed evidence or arranged for collusive testimony. The point of returning the defendant to detention would cease to exist.

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