Sat, Jan 08, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Death penalty changes lauded

GRADUAL PHASE-OUT Activists said changes to the Criminal Code that rule out capital punishment for those under 18 or over 80 are a step in the right direction

By Cody Yiu  /  STAFF REPORTER

A group opposed to the death penalty commended yesterday's overhaul of the Criminal Code through a law amendment aimed at gradually abolishing the death penalty. The groups also urged for the strengthening of correctional counseling to inmates.

Yesterday's final reading of the Criminal Code amendment abolished the death penalty for individuals under the age of 18 or over the age of 80.

"This amendment is on the right track to abolish the death penalty. We think the time to gradually abolish more crimes leading to death penalties in the Code has arrived," said Wu Chi-kwang (吳志光), an assistant professor of law at Fu Jen Catholic University, a leading member of the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty (代替死刑推動聯盟).

The alliance suggested that crimes that do not directly inflict harm on human life should be the first to have the death penalty abolished.

Wu stated that the death penalty for crimes such as drug trafficking and kidnappings where victims remain alive should be the first to be abolished.

"Removing the death penalty from all the crimes at once may be a little too much for the public; therefore, gradual changes could be made," Wu said.

In order to ensure the public that the death penalty would not result in increased recidivism of released offenders, Wu emphasized that correctional and counseling services on the part of the prison administration must be strengthened.

In addition, penalties for those who turn themselves in are also eased. According to the amendment, those who turn themselves will receive a lesser penalty than in the current Code.

Currently, Article 56 of the Criminal Code stipulates that if several successive acts constitute similar offenses, such successive acts may be considered to be one offense, but the punishment prescribed for the offense may be increased by up to one half.

An amendment was made to this article that all crimes will be classified through "crime type" and penalties will be handled independently.

The new change is intended to curb recidivism.

This major amendment, which was the first in the past 50 years, will take effect on July 1, 2006.

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