Judicial reform advocates yesterday voiced opposition to the Judicial Yuan’s draft act for citizen participation in criminal trial procedures, which they said completely rejects the idea of a jury system and would set the nation’s judiciary back 30 years.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) should not prevent its legislators from supporting a proposal that would allow the Judicial Yuan to implement a jury system as well as a lay judge system for six years before either picking one of them or rejecting both, they said at a news conference in Taipei.
The legislature’s Judiciary, Organic Laws and Statues Committee yesterday began reviewing the draft and is to continue tomorrow and on Thursday.
Photo: Chien Jung-fong, Taipei Times
The Judicial Yuan’s version proposes that three judges and six lay judges should jointly preside over criminal trials where defendants face more than 10 years in prison if convicted or where they are accused of intentional homicide, with implementation in 2023 if the bill is passed by the legislature.
The DPP and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) have supported a lay judge system, which would be similar to the one used in Japan, while the New Power Party (NPP) favors a jury system.
During yesterday’s committee meeting, members failed to reach agreement on the majority of articles, so negotiations on those articles would be necessary.
Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) caucus whip Lai Hsiang-ling (賴香伶) said that during the 2017 National Judicial Reform Conference, the lay judge system and jury system had an equal number of supporters, while a survey conducted by the TPP found that about 70 percent of respondents said the government should implement the two systems for six years before making a final decision.
The Judicial Yuan should hear the voice of the people and be open to public scrutiny, Lai said.
NPP caucus whip Chia Hsien-chih (邱顯智) said that the Judicial Yuan was widely criticized for ignoring the public opinion when it released its first draft of the act, as it would only apply to about 1,200 cases per year where defendants could face up to seven years in jail.
The draft now under review now would raise the criteria to a 10-year prison sentence, which would apply to about 500 to 600 cases annually, Chia said.
About 200,000 criminal cases are heard per year, which means the voice of the people would not be heard in majority of cases, he said.
Judicial Reform Foundation chairman Lin Yung-sung (林永頌) said the Judicial Yuan held seven meetings with civic groups since last year over the details of its draft act, and participants came very close to reaching a consensus on the six-year plan.
However, the draft act only talks about a lay judge system, and the Judicial Yuan denies ever promising to implement a dual-track system or reaching a consensus on the issue with reform advocates.
“We were surprised to hear the Judicial Yuan’s comments. The introduction of a jury system or a lay judge system is meant to democratize the judicial system, but the Judicial Yuan has apparently decided to ignore public opinion,” Lin said.
A six-year dual-track period would help authorities determine which system is more feasible for Taiwan, he added.
Taiwan Jury Association chairman Cheng Wen-lon (鄭文隆) said that the Judicial Yuan’s proposal, if implemented, would be bad for Taiwan, as it would set the judicial system back 30 years.
A jury system is used in the UK, the US, South Korea and Hong Kong, and such a system in Taiwan would resolve problems that have been caused by corrupt or incompetent judges, as well as political intervention, Cheng said.
The lay judge system proposed by Judicial Yuan is similar to that of Japan’s, which has different social values from Taiwan, he said.
In Japan, the conviction rate of judges and lay judges exceeds 99 percent, he said.
Such a system in Taiwan would become a generator of unjust verdicts, he added.
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