Man who fatally stabbed railway police officer gets commuted sentence

Chiayi,  A passenger who fatally stabbed a railway police officer in Chiayi City last July was ruled innocent of murder on the grounds of diminished responsibility on Thursday, but was ordered to be detained in a secure facility, where he must undergo mental health treatment for five years.

The 54-year-old passenger, surnamed Cheng (鄭), had been detained on homicide charges after he stabbed 24-year-old railway police officer Lee Cheng-han (李承翰) on a train from Tainan to Taipei on July 3, when he was found to lack a valid ticket.

Lee died in hospital the following day.

On Thursday, judges at the Chiayi District Court described Cheng’s long history of schizophrenia as the reason for their ruling, citing Article 19, Paragraph 1 of the Criminal Code that lists mental illness as possible grounds for a commuted sentence.

The court, meanwhile, also ordered his release to a secure facility on NT$500,000 (US$16,819) bail, which the family said they are unable to pay, meaning Cheng will have to remain in regular detention for the time being.

Hung Yu-hsiang (洪裕翔), a spokesperson for the Chiayi court, said medical records show that the defendant has a long history of mental health issues dating back to 2010.

Citing doctors’ testimony, the court said the defendant is believed to have committed the crime while suffering hallucinations caused by his schizophrenia.

Prior to the attack, Cheng had already been exhibiting an unstable mental condition in the train, Hung said, adding that when the conductor asked him to leave the train he was suffering a fugue and was heard muttering nonsensical things, such as that people were conspiring to harm him.

Cheng refused to leave the train, so Lee was called to deal with the situation. It was then that Cheng pulled out a 20cm knife and stabbed the police officer in the abdomen.

On Thursday, Lee’s parents described the ruling as “totally absurd,” telling reporters after the hearing that they will appeal the case.

Chiayi prosecutors, including Interior Minister Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇), meanwhile also expressed regret over the court’s handling of the case.

No one in the entire force could accept the idea of Cheng’s release from regular detention, National Policy Agency (NPA) Director-General Chen Ja-chin (陳家欽) said.

A statement from the NPA said the situation serves only to demoralize police morale when it appears that a suspect can get away with murdering a law enforcement officer.

Chiayi County chief prosecutor Tsai Ying-chun (蔡英俊) said his office will appeal the case once it receives a formal verdict document from the court.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel

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