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Group raises doubts about judicial reform plan
Central News Agency
2014-02-21 11:19 PM
Taipei, Feb. 21 (CNA) A judicial reform group on Friday questioned a plan to allow observers to attend Taiwan's court trials, after President Ma Ying-jeou touted the system earlier that day. "The trial observation system is the first step toward allowing the public to participate in trials," Ma said during a round-table discussion with advocates of judicial reform. The proposed system will allow people to sit through trials and express their opinions, Ma said. The judge will then need to respond to the non-binding opinions and provide reasons to support his or her decision.

Taiwan's courts do not have juries. Reform advocates have been calling for changes that provide some checks and balances to the power of judges, especially after controversial rulings in recent years have sparked public criticism and accusations that the judges are out of touch with society or are "dinosaur judges." However, the Judicial Reform Foundation criticized President Ma for endorsing the Judicial Yuan's policy of allowing court observers. It said no other country has such a system and that it could seriously undermine the spirit of people taking part in trials. Before the system is proven to be "superior" to other systems, Ma should not give his backing to it. Implementing such as a system could bring no fruits to judicial reforms, but instead pay a hefty price, the foundation said. The foundation said that the Judicial Yuan, on one hand, agreed to the request by the Legislature, to promote simulated courts of several systems such as the trial observation system and the trial by jury system, saying that it would study the experiments in a serious manner and choose a system that will be most suitable to Taiwan. But on the other hand, the Judicial Yuan has promoted the "trial observation" system. The two-prong approach by the Judicial Yuan clearly goes against the promise to the Legislature, the statement said. Meanwhile, Taiwan Shilin District Court will hold a simulated court trial on the "trial observation" system in March, the foundation said. To learn more about the details of the system, the foundation will recruit "laymen" with no law background to take part in the court proceedings. (By Huang Yi-han and Lilian Wu)

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