The Legislative Yuan Organic Laws and Statutes Committee yesterday passed draft amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure (刑事訴訟法) that would change the rights of those suspected of a crime, indicted or appealing a sentence through a preliminary review
The proposed amendments would limit police discretion in the use of restraining devices during a suspect’s detainment, arrest or transport; push the deadline for filing an appeal from 10 to 20 days; and substitute the more commonly used word “judge” (法官, faguan) for the archaic “magistrate” (推事, tuishi).
Judicial Yuan Secretary-General Lu Tai-lang (呂太郎) said the term tuishi is not used in the Constitution and all references to it should be struck from the law.
As prosecutors’ offices no longer identify themselves as belonging to a district court and the Special Investigation Division has been abolished, references to those organizations should be changed accordingly, he said.
The proposed longer timeframe for appeals and restrictions on use of restraining devices were drafted to strengthen legal protections of rights, he said.
Increasing the time window to appeal criminal convictions under the Code of Criminal Procedures would grant convicts more time to build their case and bring procedures at criminal courts in line with those at civil and administrative courts, he said.
The proposed changes mandate the use of a court translator or interpreter for the accused in case of speech impediments or language barriers, a right stipulated by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, he said.
The committee also reviewed and passed bills that would strengthen legal instruments to prevent the escape of criminal suspects and convicts, after the disappearances of several suspects investigated in high-profile cases sparked public outrage, he said.
Other proposals would limit the use of restraining devices by law enforcement to cases where there is risk of bodily harm or flight, he said, calling the amendments an important step toward better protection of suspects’ rights and human dignity.
During the review, New Power Party (NPP) Legislator Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) said he hoped that the legislature would pass the bill by floor vote as soon as possible, as the judiciary urgently needs robust mechanisms to prevent flight.
As an alternative to remand and detention, the law stipulates that suspects can be asked to report regularly to a police precinct, but most precincts have little or no ability to effectively prevent people from fleeing, he said.
However, the draft amendments do not make clear whether they would apply to people who posted bail or accepted other custody arrangements prior to its passage, he added.
“For instance, I believe that Ching Fu Shipbuilding Co chairman Chen Ching-nan’s (陳慶男) release on bail was inappropriate,” he said. “If the bill pass into law, would the legislation authorize a new ruling?”
Lu said that judges are free to reconsider bail and remand rulings under existing law, and it is legally feasible to apply the amendments retroactively to reduce the risk of suspects jumping bail or evading imprisonment.
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