United Daily News: Comments on speedy trial act
Central News Agency
2010-04-25 05:36 PM
A bill aimed at expediting the trial of criminal cases was passed by the Legislative Yuan last Friday. The Judiciary Yuan should also push for the revamping of the Code of Criminal Procedure to ensure the quick and appropriate trial of criminal cases.

The bill entitles a defendant who has stood on trial for more than eight years to ask for a commutation of any sentence under certain conditions, limits the prosecutor's power to appeal, and prohibits the detention of the defendant before a case is adjudicated for more than eight years.

The bill has its problematic areas. For example, defendants who were charged with the same offense may be treated differently because of the differing lengths of time their cases have been in the court system.

Also the bill will open avenues for prosecutors and judges to help defendants by dragging their feet in trials.

Furthermore, the bill has usurped the role of the Code of Criminal Procedure by setting limitations on the detention of the defendant and the prosecutors' power to appeal, thus confusing criminal procedures.

The root cause of criminal trials becoming cumbersome is that the Supreme Court repeatedly remands cases to lower courts for retrials.

The remedy is to make sure that the evidence in a case is fully disclosed and clearly determined in the first trial and does not need to be investigated again in ensuing trials. The Supreme Count should be limited to examining whether the law applied in the case is appropriate.

There is no reason to stipulate the period of detention in the Code of Criminal Procedure for defendants charged with misdemeanors and in the bill on a speedy trial for those charged with felonies.

Stipulating the periods of detention in different laws will complicate the task of streamlining criminal procedures.

The bill prohibits prosecutors from filing appeals in cases where the defendant was found not guilty in both the first and second trials. However, Ministry of Justice statistics show that verdicts in 60 percent of such cases were thrown out by the Supreme Court on appeal by prosecutors.

The bill also failed to take into consideration how the victims in criminal cases would feel if no one were found responsible for their suffering.

The bill is more a way to silence public criticism than to fix the problem of procrastination in criminal trials. (April 25, 2010) (By Maubo Chang)

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