Mon, Feb 24, 2014 - Page 3 News List

Foundation questions plan to allow observers at trials

Staff writer, with CNA

The Judicial Reform Foundation is questioning a plan to allow observers to attend trials, after President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) touted the idea on Friday.

“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 judicial reform.

The proposed system will allow people to sit through trials and express their opinions, Ma said. The judge will then need to respond to the non-binding opinions and provide reasons to support his or her decision.

Local courts do not have juries. Reform advocates have been calling for changes that provide some checks and balances to the power of judges, especially after controversial rulings in recent years have sparked public criticism and accusations that the judges are out of touch with society or are “dinosaur judges.”

However, the foundation criticized Ma for endorsing the Judicial Yuan’s policy of allowing court observers.

It said no other country has such a system and that it could seriously undermine the spirit of people taking part in trials.

Before the system is proven to be “superior” to other systems, Ma should not back it. Implementing such as a system could bring no fruits to judicial reforms, but instead make Taiwanese pay a hefty price, the foundation said.

The foundation added that the Judicial Yuan has agreed to the request by the legislature to promote simulated courts of several systems, such as the trial observation system and the trial by jury system, saying that it would study the experiments in a serious manner and choose a system that will be most suitable to Taiwan.

However, on the other hand, the Judicial Yuan has promoted the “trial observation” system.

The two-pronged approach by the Judicial Yuan clearly goes against the promise to the legislature, the statement said.

Meanwhile, Taiwan Shilin District Court is to hold a simulated court trial using the “trial observation” system next month, the foundation said.

To learn more about the details of the system, the foundation is to recruit “laymen” with no legal background to take part in the court proceedings.

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