Thu, Jan 04, 2001 - Page 1 News List

Budget talks drag on into night session

LEGISLATURE'S LAST DAY The Legislative Yuan spent all of yesterday amending a law to strip the power of prosecutors to order a search, leaving the final review of the budget for a marathon night-time session

By Stephanie Low  /  STAFF REPORTER

The legislature passed a set of amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure (刑事訴訟法) yesterday to transfer the power to order searches from prosecutors to judges, delaying until past midnight a final review of the 2001 fiscal budget.

Yesterday was the last day of the current legislative session, and the new session will not start until mid-February. The legislature was expected to hold a night-owl session to finish the final review reading of the fiscal 2001 budget bill as soon as the criminal procedure amendments were passed.

If the budget bill is delayed until the next legislative session, the government will have problems implementing a number of new projects.

According to the criminal procedure amendments, prosecutors will be required to apply for a search warrant from judges before launching a search. In the case of an urgent situation -- where there is sufficient reason to believe that the search is crucial for the preservation of evidence -- a search can be conducted without the court's prior permission.

In addition to the pre-search procedure, there will be a post-search procedure to check for possible abuse of searches by prosecutors.

Prosecutors will be required to report to the court on the results of a search within three days of its taking place. If the court declares a search invalid, the evidence collected from the search will be disqualified for use in trial proceedings.

For most of yesterday the legislature was in recess after a Tuesday afternoon disagreement on the priority for handling the criminal procedure amendments and the fiscal 2001 budget.

The KMT insisted that the legislature pass the amendments before starting its final review reading of the fiscal 2001 budget. The DPP, New Party and People First Party, however, preferred passing the already delayed budget bill first, on the grounds that there were still wide inter-party differences over the details of the amendments.

As the KMT refused to make any concession, lawmakers spent almost the whole day negotiating details and wording of the amendment.

Despite their consensus on the basic principles of the amendments, the negotiations ran into trouble when lawmakers failed to agree on when the new system should be implemented.

While the KMT wants the system implemented one month after the amendment is passed, the DPP supports the Ministry of Justice's position and wants a one-year grace period between passage and implementation to facilitate preparatory work.

The New Party has proposed a six-month grace period to seek a compromise between the two.

"We won't let the amendment pass unless there is an agreement on the grace period," said DPP legislator Chiu Tai-san (邱太三).

Owing to differences over the grace period, the legislative meeting had not started as of 10pm last night, which led legislators from the People First Party to stage a demonstration in the meeting chamber demanding Vice Speaker Yao Eng-chi (饒穎奇) stop discussions over the criminal procedure amendments and start reviewing the budget immediately.

The move also won the support of the DPP.

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