The Ministry of Justice on Friday announced plans to better protect the rights of victims of crime and their families, by enhancing their legal status and allowing them to participate in trial hearings, introducing a draft bill to address deficiencies in the judicial system.
As part of the ongoing judicial reform process, the changes would allow victims and their families to be represented by legal counsel and respond to court rulings, while for serious crimes, including murder, legal assistance would be provided throughout the entire legal procedure, Minister of Justice Chiu Tai-san (邱太三) said.
To arrive at these objectives, the ministry is to draft amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure (刑事訴訟法) for submission to the legislature within six months, Chiu said.
There has been rising public sentiment to improve the rights of crime victims and their families in light of several prominent murder cases and preventable accidents which resulted in loss of life, including the murder of a couple who owned a cafe by an employee in 2013; a knife attack on the Taipei Mass Rapid Transit System by a lone assailant that resulted in four deaths in 2014; the Color Play Asia disaster at the Formosa Fun Coast (八仙海岸) water park in New Taipei City’s Bali District (八里) which led to 15 fatalities and injured more than 500 people in 2015; and the decapitation of a four-year-old girl in Taipei’s Neihu District (內湖) last year.
Chiu said the The Code of Criminal Procedure, restricts victims and their families from giving their opinions and viewpoints during the trial, which leads to resentment and irate reactions, as the accused and their lawyers have the right to argue their case and present their defense.
“In the past, victims were treated as witnesses and asked to give their testimonies, but they did not participate in court hearings. The justice ministry is working to elevate the legal status of victims,” Chiu said. “We agree that victims have the right to express their opinions and viewpoints and also have the right to better understand the background and details of a crime.”
The proposed amendments would see major revisions to the code governing criminal proceedings by granting the victim the right to legal representation, to review the evidence and results of investigations, to give opinions at the trial hearing, and respond to judgement on a case, and have the right to file an appeal.
“We want to amend the law so victims are notified of a conviction, informed of their rights, and given an understanding of the legal process that is to take place. Victims and their families should be notified of a court ruling in the first instance, so that they do not hear about it in the media first,” Chiu said.
The ministry is to work with the Association for Victims Support to immediately notify victims of sentencing, jail transfers, or parole of people convicted of a crime against them.
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