Fri, Mar 11, 2011 - Page 3 News List

Cabinet moves to tighten child sex laws

JAIL TIME:If amendments to the Criminal Code are passed, offenders convicted of statutory rape of a person under 18 could face more than seven years behind bars

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff Reporter

The government yesterday abolished controversial regulations that made it difficult to prosecute individuals accused of sex crimes against minors and increased the penalties for such crimes.

The amendment to the Criminal Code was approved by the Cabinet but must be passed by the legislature before taking effect.

One of the major revisions was the removal of a condition requiring proof that an offense against a minor had been committed against the wishes of the victim before the accused could be convicted of statutory rape.

The Ministry of Justice made the proposal in response to the White Rose Movement, initiated in September last year by several civic groups following a number of cases in which the accused escaped punishment because prosecutors had failed to prove that alleged offenses were committed against the victims’ wishes.

If the amendment passes the legislature, offenders using force, threat, violence, drugs, hypnosis or other measures to have sexual intercourse with a victim could face a minimum of five years in jail.

Under current regulations, the sentence for such crimes is three to 10 years’ imprisonment.

The ministry has also suggested that widening the scope of protection for victims of sexual crimes by raising the age limit of statutory rape victims from 14 to 18 would better protect teenagers from sexual assault.

In the amendment, offenders convicted of statutory rape of a person under the age of 18 could be sentenced to more than seven years in jail.

The ministry also suggested scrapping the possibility of exonerating offenders under the age of 18 for sexual intercourse or sexual harassment of a person under the age of 12.

In related news, the Cabinet meeting also approved an amendment to the Act Governing the Punishment of Violation of Road Traffic Regulations (道路交通管理處罰條例), which will require passengers sitting in the back seat of a car to wear a seatbelt.

Statistics for 2006 and 2007 showed that the fatality rate for passengers who were not wearing safety belts in car accidents was between 3.44 percent and 4.11 percent.

The corresponding rate for passengers wearing seatbelts was between 0.94 percent and 1.14 percent, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications said in its proposal.

The ministry cited academic research on car accident fatality rates in the US as showing that the death rate for passengers not wearing safety belts is 2.71 times higher than for passengers restrained by belts.

According to the amendment, drivers of vehicles would be fined NT$1,500, while the fine would be raised to between NT$3,000 and NT$6,000 when driving on freeways or expressways.

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