Sat, Aug 02, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Amended law protects both rich and poor

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Judicial Yuan President Weng Yueh-sheng (翁岳生) yesterday promised that filing a lawsuit will not become a "rich man's game" when a new amendment to the Code of Criminal Procedure (刑事訴訟法) becomes effective on Sept. 1.

"Filing a lawsuit will definitely not become a rich man's game, because the new law protects the legal rights of both the defendant and the plaintiff, no matter if they are rich or poor," Weng said.

Weng made the remarks during a speech at the Taiwan High Court yesterday morning in response to criticism from the public that poor people will no longer be able to sue because they will not be able to afford the increased lawyer's fees.

According to the amendment, prosecutors will be required to attend every pre-trial hearing to question the defendant in an attempt to prove his or her guilt using evidence they gather there.

This used to be the duty of judges. Judges will now have to consider their verdicts according to the evidence and interrogation records presented by prosecutors during the hearings.

In addition, prosecutors will be allowed to attend hearings of their own free will.

Under the amendment, judges will only have to preside over the case, which, according to Weng, not only makes judges' jobs easier, enabling them to hear more cases within a certain time period, but also ensures that every case is heard correctly according to court rules.

However, trial proceedings will definitely be prolonged now that the new law requires prosecutors, plaintiffs, defendants and lawyers to attend every single hearing to defend their own statements.

When one of them is not able to attend, the hearing will be rescheduled and legal fees will also increase.

"Some said that lawsuits will become rich people's games, since poor people will not be able to afford the increased fees. But I do not think it will be that way," Weng said.

"To make the amendment effective is a giant step forward for judicial reforms, which we have fought for since 1999. With the amendment, human rights and justice will be better protected and assured. This is very important to those of us who have devoted ourself to these reforms, as well as the judicial system in this country," he said.

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