A draft bill to establish a pilot program to allow limited public participation in court hearings has been submitted to the Legislative Yuan for approval, the head of the Judicial Yuan said yesterday.
Judicial Yuan President Rai Hau-min (賴浩敏) made the remarks during a ceremony at the Judicial Yuan to celebrate the Lunar New Year.
Rai said that citizen participation in the judicial process is a worldwide trend, which could promote the principles of judicial democratization and transparency, as well as enhance public trust in the judicial system, adding that he hoped the bill would be approved by the legislature this year and put into practice as soon as possible.
Under the pilot program, five members of the public and three judges would preside over criminal trials in which the defendant(s) could face a minimum sentence of seven years in prison, such as cases involving kidnapping, murder, drug smuggling and corruption charges.
Members of the public would be invited to offer their opinions on defendants’ guilt, and on sentencing.
If the citizens’ opinions are at odds with those of judges, then judges would have the final say.
The draft bill states that citizen members would be drawn from the ranks of Taiwanese who have completed the nation’s compulsory education system and have no criminal record.
Citizens older than 23 would be eligible for jury service, but the president, vice president, law-enforcement officials, political party staffers, judges, prosecutors and attorneys would be excluded.