Reforms are needed to reduce prosecutors’ workloads and improve efficiency, New Power Party (NPP) Executive Chairman Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) said on Friday.
“You cannot expect horses to run without giving them grass to eat,” he said at a legislative hearing on the issue, criticizing what he called the endemic problem of overwork in prosecutors’ offices, particularly for judicial officers.
“They are just as busy at night as during the day, but they still are not eligible for overtime pay, even though the workload is foreseeable,” he said.
Numerous prosecutors testified that their caseloads have progressively increased, even as staff numbers have decreased as open positions remain unfilled.
“With an average of 80 cases a month, you are going to be in court at least 120 times each month, assuming that half of the cases cannot be handled in one hearing,” Taoyuan District Prosecutor Wang Wen-tzu (王文咨) said, citing the prevalence of family violence and human trafficking cases where plaintiffs and defendants must be called in to testify separately.
“Assuming that we do not take any breaks and are not required to travel or attend meetings, we could still only spend an average of 1.8 to 2.25 hours per case if we were to abide by overtime restrictions,” Kaohsiung’s Ciaotou District Prosecutors’ Office prosecutor Cheng Tzu-wei (鄭子薇) said, adding that prosecutors can only legally claim 20 hours of overtime each month.
Meetings, court hearings and other obligations ensure that prosecutors are forced to write case reports in the evenings and over weekends, she said.
“Most of the time, I have used up my overtime quota by the 10th day,” she said. “Given that we are responsible for appearing in all court hearings in person, going through documents and writing up all reports, there is no way we can get everything done in the time we are legally allowed, so the result is long extra hours without pay.”
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