Following a 36-hour review, the National Judge Act (國民法官法) yesterday cleared the legislative floor, providing the legal basis for a lay judge system for criminal offenses, which is expected to go into effect in January 2023.
The act mandates that lay judges, termed “national judges” in the act, take part in the review of cases of crimes warranting a prison term of at least 10 years or premeditated crimes that resulted in death.
Three career judges and six national judges would form the collegiate bench for the reviews, the act states.
A guilty verdict would require the consent of career and national judges, and at least two-thirds of all of the members of the bench — otherwise, the bench should acquit or rule in favor of the defendant, it states.
A deliberation of the death penalty would also require the consent of career and national judges, and at least two-thirds of all members on the bench, it adds.
When a prosecutor indicts a suspect in a case filed under the lay judge system, the case files and evidence would not be forwarded to the presiding court, and the indictment would not contain any language that might influence the court’s ruling, it states.
As soon as an indictment is made, the prosecutor should provide the defendant with any evidence against them, except in cases where doing so would negatively affect the review of another case, infringe on the privacy or commercial secrets of a third party, or threaten other people’s safety, it states.
National judges must be allowed to exercise their authority independently and in good faith, and be free from any influences, it states.
National judges who leak secrets shared with them in the discharging of their duties would face a prison term of up to a year or a fine of up to NT$100,000 (US$3,387), it adds.
National judges would be randomly selected by local governments from among Republic of China citizens who are at least 23 years old and have lived within a court’s jurisdiction for at least four months.
Employees selected to serve as national judges are to be awarded leave for the time spent in court.
National judges would be reimbursed about NT$3,000 per day, a Judicial Yuan estimate showed.
The president, the vice president, legislators, city or county councilors, central and local government agency heads and employees, people who have been stripped of their civil rights, those who have not finished compulsory education, former or active judges, and lawyers are not allowed to serve as national judges, it states.
Also, people who are detained, imprisoned, have been convicted or are in rehabilitation cannot be selected, it adds.
National judges who take bribes, engage in quid pro quo arrangements or seek other undue benefits would face a prison term of up to 10 years and a possible fine of NT$2 million, while those seeking to bribe a national judge would face a prison term of up to seven years and a possible fine of up to NT$1 million, it states.
The lay judge system would undergo a trial period of six years starting on Jan. 1, 2023, with the Judicial Yuan having the authority to extend or reduce the trial, it states.
The Judicial Yuan is to evaluate the system’s efficacy after the trial period and make suggestions to the Legislative Yuan on amending the system, it adds.
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