Fri, Jul 12, 2002 - Page 2 News List

Cabinet says it supports justice plan

PROPOSED AMENDMENT The Ministry of Justice wants longer prison terms and hopes to eliminate the possibility of a teenager being sentenced to death

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Cabinet yesterday approved the Ministry of Justice's proposed amendment to the Criminal Code that would, among other things, extend the maximum amount of prison time given for a sentence with a definite term from 20 years to 30 years.

The Judicial Yuan will conduct a final review of the proposed amendment before it is submitted to the Legislative Yuan. The Cabinet did not set a timetable for passage of the proposed change.

Article 51-5 of the Criminal Code states that if several prison sentences of a definite period have been imposed, the period of punishment shall be fixed at not less than the longest sentence and not more than the sum total of each punishment, but shall not exceed 20 years.

For example, if a person was found guilty on three charges and faced a sentence of 10 years on the first charge, 15 years on the second charge and five years on the third, at present judges would have to impose a prison term of at least 15 years but not more than 20.

Although the ministry's proposed amendment sets a new maximum limit of 30 years, it would also allow judges to impose additional time behind bars -- up to 10 years -- for a repeat offender. So if the amendment becomes law, it would be possible that a repeat offender could face a 40-year jail term.

Among the other changes called for in the draft amendment are eliminating the possibility of a defendant under the age of 18 being sentenced to either death or life imprisonment, lengthening the time a person sentenced either to death or life in prison would have to spend behind bars if their sentence is reduced and allowing judges to be stricter in reviewing bail applications.

At present, under Article 63, a person who is convicted of a murder committed before they turned 18 years of age can't be given the death penalty or life imprisonment unless the victim was a "lineal blood ascendant." This is the only exception to the rule that those under 18 can't be sentenced to death or life in prison. The amendment would eliminate that exception.

Article 64 stipulates that if a death sentence is reduced to prison time, the sentencing options are either life imprisonment or imprisonment for more than 12 years, but less than 15 years.

Under the proposed amendment, the non-life option would be extended to "more than 30 but less than 40 years."

Article 65 stipulates that if a sentence of life in prison is reduced, the option is a term of not less than seven years. Under the draft amendment, that option would be extended to a term of more than 20 years but less than 30.

"The Criminal Code has not undergone a major change since it went into in effect in 1935. It is time to do it and this is it," said Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission Chairman Hsu Chi-hsiung (許志雄), who was the convener of yesterday's meeting.

"We will try to finish the legal process as soon as possible and make the amendment law," Hsu said.

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