Sat, Jan 24, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Justices pull plug on supervised meetings

PRIVACY PROTECTEDThe Council of Grand Justices said regulations that require meetings between a defendant and a lawyer to be supervised were unconstitutional

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

The Council of Grand Justices yesterday announced Constitutional Interpretation No. 654 and said that Detention Act (羈押法) regulations that require meetings between a detained defendant and a lawyer to be supervised are unconstitutional. The interpretation also says that information gained from the recordings of such a meetings shall no longer be admissible as evidence after May 1.

The issue of lawyer-client confidentiality for detained suspects has been the subject of much controversy following the recent detention of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) on charges of money laundering and embezzlement, with the regulations attracting criticism from home and abroad.

On Jan. 8, New York University professor and Asian law expert Jerome Cohen criticized the measures in a piece in the South China Morning Post. Yesterday’s ruling came in response to a request from Mai An-huai (麥安懷), the former chief of staff of Taipei County Government Commissioner Chou Hsi-wei (周錫瑋), who was previously detained on suspicion of corruption.

Mai felt that the supervision and recording of his meetings with his lawyer were an infringement of his right to a defense. He requested a constitutional interpretation of articles 23 and 28 of the Detention Act. Both articles were ruled unconstitutional by the Council of Grand Justices.

Article 23 says: “A person who applies to grant a visitation with a defendant, shall state clearly their full name, occupation, age, residential address, the main content of the interview, the name of the defendant and the relationship with the defendant. Officials at the detention house shall supervise the visitation when it is granted.”

The interpretation says that paragraph 3 of Article 23, which allows the supervision and recording of meetings between a detainee and a lawyer regardless of the circumstances, and Article 28 were unconstitutional.

Article 28 says: “If the content of the speeches, conduct and sent and received mail of a defendant can provide information for the criminal investigation and trial, they shall be reported to the public prosecutor or the district court.”

In the interpretation, the Council of Grand Justices said that Article 23, Paragraph 3 and Article 28 would no longer be valid after May 1.

Judicial Yuan Secretary-General Hsieh Wen-ting (謝文定) said the interpretation protected the public’s litigation rights and did not conflict with efforts to maintain order and security in detention centers.

Hsieh said the current modus operandi is only to supervise and record meetings between lawyers and detainees who are being held incommunicado.

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