Taipei, Taiwan’s top judicial authorities presented their stance on a proposed bill of citizens’ participation in criminal trials Saturday, 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 Monday on the draft bill, the Judicial Yuan said it is inclined to adopt Japan’s system of citizen participation rather than a jury system, considering Taiwan’s situation and current legal system.
Compared to the jury system used in many Western countries, in which jurors hand out the verdict but are not involved in sentencing decisions, Japan randomly selects six citizens to be lay judges who sit alongside three court judges and jointly decide both the verdict and the sentencing.
The Judicial Yuan said the Japanese system allows better communication and interaction between citizens and court judges and negates the situation of a “hung jury,” which can lengthen the trial process.
Allowing citizens to have a role in deciding sentencing also meets public expectations, it said.
Other reasons listed against the jury system include that a jury does not need to give reasons for its verdict, which contradicts the current constitution of people’s rights regarding the legal trial and appeal process, according to the document.
The Judicial Yuan also cited the higher costs of forming a jury, and that allowing a jury rather than judges to hand out verdicts could contradict the Constitutional Court’s Interpretation No. 378, which defines what constitutes a court.
It pointed out that countries, like Japan and France, which previously used the jury system, are shifting to the lay judge model, and listed criticisms of the jury system in the United States.
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 held in recent years, both show that the majority favors the lay judge model, it added.
The Judicial Yuan also responded to the views of some lawmakers during last week’s committee hearing that the draft bill presented jointly by the Cabinet and the Judicial Yuan limiting citizens’ participation in criminal trials to 600 cases a year by estimate is against the original idea.
According to the draft bill, 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 between 2015 and 2019, according to the document.
Given that it is a new system, the Judicial Yuan said it considers the limit appropriate and open for review and amendment.
The draft bill 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.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel