Ministry of Justice officials yesterday said that they have reservations about a proposal to amend the Criminal Code to hand out mandatory death sentence or life imprisonment to people convicted of killing a child younger than 12 years old.
Legislators began deliberating an amendment to Article 271 of the Criminal Code in yesterday’s session of Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee, where the ministry tabled a report against the proposed amendment.
The move came in the aftermath of Monday’s murder of a four-year-old girl in front of her mother in Taipei’s Neihu District (內湖), with many people saying that in several child murder cases in the past few years, judges have been more concerned with the rights of the defendants, while the victims’ relatives often felt justice was not served.
A group of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators led by Hsu Chih-jung (徐志榮) proposed to amend Article 271, which deals with “Offenses of Homicide” and states: “A person who takes the life of another shall be sentenced to death or life imprisonment, or imprisonment for not less than 10 years. An attempt to commit an offense specified in the preceding paragraph is punishable. A person who prepares to commit an offense specified in paragraph 1 shall be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than two years.”
The ministry said that it has reservations about the legislators’ proposal to make an addition to the article that states: “A person convicted of an offense specified in the preceding paragraph, in taking the life of a child under 12 of age, shall be sentenced to death or life imprisonment.”
Responding to queries by legislators, Deputy Minister of Justice Chen Ming-tang (陳明堂) cited the report and explained the ministry’s view that such an amendment is not needed.
“There are already provisions under the Protection of Children and Youths Welfare and Rights Act (兒童及少年福利與權益保障法) that adult offenders against children and minors can receive an additional 50 percent of their sentences,” Chen said.
“In addition, for some criminal cases involving special situations, it might lead to problems of imposing heavy punishment on mitigating circumstances, thus might restrict the latitude for the judge to decide on the terms of punishment,” he said.
Chen said Article 271 is on par with other nations’ criminal codes, adding that Germany and Japan have the same provisions on the punishment for homicide.
“They do not have provisions that impose heavier sentences for taking the lives of children or minors, because there is already a death sentence or life imprisonment for homicide,” he said.
Chen said that despite the reservations and possible overlap with other laws, the ministry is open to discussing this issue with legislators, as it is based on preserving social stability and the protection of children and minors.
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