Sat, Feb 22, 2014 - Page 3 News List

Ma touts plan to allow observers at court trials

Staff writer, with CNA

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday touted a plan to allow observers to attend court trials, assuring reform advocacy groups that the plan is a necessary step toward increasing public trust in the judiciary.

“The trial observation system is the first step toward allowing the public to participate in trials,” Ma said during a round-table discussion with advocates of reform of the justice system.

The proposed system, the fruit of efforts to involve the public in trials since 1987, would allow people to attend trials and express their opinions, Ma said.

The judge would then respond to the non-binding opinions and provide reasons to support his or her decision, he said.

A survey conducted last year revealed that 81 percent of respondents believed such a system would help enhance trust in the judiciary, he said.

However, Ma conceded that the trial observation system is only a “ground-laying” measure compared with Japan’s lay judge system and South Korea’s jury trial system similar to the one used in the US.

Commenting on those two systems, Ma said that the launch of Japan’s lay judge system in 2009 was marred by limited interest, with only 30 percent of the public wanting to join.

However, once people began taking part regularly, 96.7 percent of people wanted to take part in the court system, Ma said.

He added that a 2003 survey indicated that as many as 83.7 percent of South Koreans had doubts about the fairness of their judiciary.

In contrast, 69 percent of people described rulings as “trustworthy” after jury trials were introduced in 2008, he said.

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