Thu, Aug 22, 2013 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan is safe haven for criminals

By Kyle Jeffcoat

Along with the arrival of spring this year came one of the most horrific experiences of my life — being severely assaulted without warning by a total stranger at a public park in Taipei.

In early March on the night in question, I was sitting on a park bench having a conversation with a friend. Out of nowhere, a towering figure wearing a motorcycle helmet started pounding on my face. After my friend pulled him off me and became entangled in defending himself from our assailant, my friend asked him several times why he was attacking us, but after a few minutes our reticent attacker simply returned across the street to his apartment.

With both of us lying on the ground disfigured and disoriented, I managed to call 119 and mumble through my mangled lips our whereabouts to the emergency authorities and that we had been attacked.

Within 10 minutes, two police officers and an ambulance arrived on the scene and I was whisked away to the emergency room, despite an entreaty to point out the person responsible for our plight, who was hiding just beyond a door next to the ambulance.

Appallingly, they denied my pleas and in the following days the police who were initially handling our case did nothing besides give the case to someone in the investigative brigade — the detective assigned to our case — who was, we were told, on vacation for three weeks and could not be reached.

After the investigator had ostensibly returned from vacation, the case was immediately transferred to a public prosecutor at the Taipei District Court, where it sat for over a month until we and our attacker were finally called in for a preliminary hearing with the prosecutor. However, the prosecutor, who decides if the charges justify a court case, had not been given crucial evidence pertaining to our case — footage from a CCTV surveillance camera at the park that shows the perpetrator darting from the doorway of his apartment building to attack us from behind, and then nonchalantly walking back to his building several minutes later with his helmet in his hand.

It is now several months after the initial hearing, but we have not heard a peep from the authorities or received any indication that an inkling of justice shall be achieved in this case.

According to a pivotal witness in our case who recently contacted us quite out of the blue, the man confessed to the witness that he attacked us, bragging about carrying out his premeditated plans to physically hurt anyone sitting at the park having an audible conversation late at night, particularly foreigners.

Unfortunately, the witness was too spooked to provide accurate testimony in court after being threatened by our malefactor.

After listening to a number of fellow expatriates complain about Taiwan’s flawed legal system in recent months, especially in dealing with injustices concerning foreigners, and forewarning us that nothing much judicially will happen to our attacker, it has come to my attention that the systemic inadequacies of the judicial and executive branches of government need to be better explained to foreign residents, as well as Taiwanese, for that matter.

The recent handling of the death of army corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘) has certainly exemplified the formidable ineptitude of these systems and their representatives.

To offer some comparative insight, if our assailant had assaulted someone in Georgia, the US state he hails from — which he has on at least two verifiable occasions — he would be jailed for up to one year and fined up to US$1,000. However, in Taiwan, although he could theoretically be sentenced to serve one year in jail, he will most likely receive a slap on the wrist — a fine of up to NT$1,000 for the misdemeanor of simple battery.

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