Support reform to allow popular participation in law
The China Post news staffThe Judicial Yuan is promoting a revolutionary effort in reforming the country's justice system. Government leaflets can be found introducing a trial version of the jury system, called the civilian observation trial system.
August 12, 2013, 12:01 am TWN
According to the Judicial Yuan, the potential introduction of the jury system has been under discussion since 1987. Starting 2 1/2 years ago, a series of feasibility seminars were held in a serious effort to study the topic. Several simulated run-throughs have been carried out over the past two years. Although the Judicial Yuan is still assessing the viability of the new format, this reform will completely change the outlook of Taiwan's legal proceedings if it does get implemented throughout the land.
Civilian observation trials involve the participation of a panel of citizens who meet certain qualifications, including being above 23 years of age and not having served a jail term. Those who are currently under probation or are less than two years from the end of their last probation cannot serve. Civil servants up to the president are prohibited from serving, as are lawyers and law professors. High school education is required.
Serious criminal offenses are the target for the new system. Observers join a three-judge panel in assessing the culpability of the defendant as well as sentencing. As of now, judges have the power to ignore the judgment reached by the observers, but in doing so must offer justification as to why that verdict is inappropriate.
In blazing a path for legal reform, Taiwan has taken into account the various forms of citizen participation in justice systems worldwide. The U.S. and the UK operate under jury systems where jurors decide on guilt and the judge assesses a sentence in the case of guilt. In Germany and Japan, the jury and the judge cooperate throughout the determination of guilt as well as the sentencing process.