The Taiwan High Court yesterday admitted that a judicial oversight was responsible for a controversial move that saw the release of three prisoners who were appealing against their life sentences for the kidnap and murder of a local businessman.
"The judge in charge of the case and his secretary, who forgot to enter the names of the three prisoners into the computer reminding the judge that the men should have been detained, have both been disciplined," Taiwan High Court spokesman Wen Yau-yuan (
The three prisoners, charged with kidnapping for ransom, should have been held throughout the duration of their trail, Wen added.
The three criminals, Chiu Yi-ting (邱義庭), Lin Ching-xian (林欽賢) and Hsieh Hsin-hsiung (謝信雄), bundled a businessman surnamed Huang into their car on a main road in Taipei County in June 2004.
The criminals then contacted Huang's family and asked for a ransom, but five days later Huang's body was found in the suspects' car.
Police identified the three men using film from a surveillance camera that captured the moment when the victim was pulled into the kidnapper's car.
Chiu and Lin fled to China immediately after the bungled kidnapping. But local police asked the Chinese authorities for help in detaining the two men, and they were arrested and sent back to Taiwan in September the same year.
Hsieh was later arrested in Taiwan.
Although district prosecutors from Taipei County's Banciao Office asked judges for the death penalty, Banciao District Court sentenced the three men to life imprisonment. The defendants appealed the decision to the Taiwan High Court.
However, Wen said that last December the High Court judge in charge of the case failed to rule for their continued detention, so the men had to be released.
According to the Criminal Procedure Code, prisoners in detention must be released if the court does not update their detention status, Wen added.
Wen said the lawyers for the prisoners discovered the oversight and immediately asked the court to free their clients.
Wen added that the Taiwan High Court has ordered the three prisoners not be allowed to leave the country, and instructed local police to keep them under surveillance.
"We also have apologized to the victim's family for the oversight," Wen added.
Wen said the High Court has notified judges and will make sure they never make similar mistakes in the future.