The Judicial Yuan on Saturday presented its position on a bill to allow citizens to participate in deciding criminal trials, listing 10 reasons against the implementation of a jury system.
In a document submitted to the Legislative Yuan ahead of a committee hearing scheduled for today, the Judicial Yuan said that it favors Japan’s system of citizen participation rather than a jury system.
Compared with jury systems in many Western countries, in which jurors give verdicts, but are not involved in sentencing, Japan randomly selects six people to be lay judges who sit alongside three court judges and help decide verdicts and sentences.
The Japanese system allows better communication and interaction between citizens and court judges, and negates “hung juries,” which can lengthen trials, the Judicial Yuan said.
Allowing citizens a role in sentencing also meets public expectations, it said.
Other reasons that it gave against a jury system were that a jury does not need to give reasons for a verdict, which contradicts the Constitution regarding people’s rights in the trial and appeals process.
The Judicial Yuan also cited the cost of forming a jury and said that allowing a jury to hand out verdicts might contradict Constitutional Court Interpretation No. 378, which defines what constitutes a court.
Nations such as Japan and France, which previously used a jury system, are shifting to the lay judge model, it said, while criticizing the jury system in the US.
Surveys conducted by the Taiwan Database for Empirical Legal Studies and National Chengchi University’s Election Study Center, as well as opinions collected through mock trials over the past few years, show that most people favor the lay judge model, it said.
Legislators at a committee hearing this month said that the proposal, which was presented by the Cabinet and the Judicial Yuan, would limit the participation of citizens in criminal trials to an estimated 600 cases per year.
The proposal says that citizen participation is limited to major felonies that carry prison sentences of 10 years or more, as well as cases involving death caused intentionally.
The estimate was made based on the number of such cases from 2015 to last year, the Judicial Yuan document said.
Given that it is a new system, the limit is appropriate, but is open for review and amendment, it said.
The draft was first presented to the legislature in April 2017 as part of President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) planned reform of the judicial system, but lawmakers did not pass it before their term ended in January.
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