The Judicial Yuan yesterday completed a draft amendment that would create a judicial system similar to those of Germany and Japan, in which regular citizens would help determine verdicts in criminal trials.
Judicial Yuan Secretary-General Fan Kuang-chun (范光群) said that the system would be applicable only in hearings on serious corruption charges that have acquired a certain level of public prominence and crimes punishable by the death penalty or life imprisonment, such as kidnapping, murder and drug smuggling.
Three judges currently preside over criminal trials, and there is no jury system in the country.
Fan said that under the new system, three professional judges and four lay judges, selected from amongst the citizenry would preside over criminal trials.
"The seven judges will enjoy equal status in the hearing, and the verdict will be determined by majority vote," Fan told a press conference yesterday.
Fan added that the lay judge system would be applied when defendants accused of serious crimes request it, or if the courts decided it was necessary.
"A lay judge system would promote the principles of judicial democratization and transparency, as well as enhancing public trust in our judicial system," Fan said.
He added that Germany, which has a judicial system similar to Taiwan's, has already implemented a lay judge system, while Japan plans to implement such a system in 2009.
The Judicial Yuan completed the draft after examining the legal systems in Germany and Japan, as well as the jury systems in the UK and US, Fan said.
He said that the Judicial Yuan proposed four hearings next month asking judges, prosecutors, lawyers, legal experts and the general public to offer their views on the draft.
Fan said the Judicial Yuan hoped that the draft could then be submitted to the Legislative Yuan for approval in the current legislative session.
According to the draft, lay judges should be drawn from the ranks of Taiwanese nationals who have completed the nation's compulsory education system and who have no criminal record.
People aged from 25 to 70 would be qualified to act as a lay judge.