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UK court nods to ROC ruling in Dean case

TAIPEI--Taiwan's Ministry of Justice (MOJ) on Saturday welcomed a British high court ruling that a Briton found guilty in a hit-and-run case in Taiwan will have to pay civil damages to the victim's family.

On Friday, the High Court of Justice in London declared that Zain Dean — currently detained and undergoing an extradition trial in Edinburgh court — will be liable to pay up to NT$9 million (US$300,000), an amount subject to an 8-percent increase for every year the damages are not paid, as ordered by a Taiwanese court in February 2013.

Taiwan's Deputy Justice Minister Chen Ming-tang hailed the ruling, which took immediate effect, as “significant” and a “true showing of justice,” as it was the first such case in recent times when the UK has acknowledged a Taiwanese court's ruling.

He also called this a “great example of mutual judicial cooperation.”

Dean, who faced charges of driving under the influence of alcohol, manslaughter and committing a hit-and-run offense, had been found guilty by a Taiwanese court and was sentenced to four years in prison in July 2012 after 31-year-old Huang Chun-te was run over and killed on the morning of March 25, 2010 while delivering newspapers.

Dean fled Taiwan using a friend's passport right before his sentence was set to begin.

In a separate civil lawsuit, a court in Taipei awarded Huang's family NT$7.55 million in damages. The NT$9 million sum approved by the High Court in London included interests.

During Friday's court session, Dean's attorney argued that as no official ties or extradition treaties existed between Taiwan and the UK, the Taiwanese court's ruling was ineffective.

The judge did not accept the attorney's reasoning, however, stating that Dean had already acknowledged Taiwan's judicial authority by hiring a defense attorney in Taiwan after the case was first brought to court. The judge also pointed out that Dean had failed to submit any formal written documentation to counter the ruling.

Dean can appeal the UK High Court's decision in 14 days but it would not be accepted unless Dean can produce a new argument, according to a senior legal source.

Taiwan's justice ministry and the Association for Protection of Victims of Criminals had filed a request last March for the compulsory execution of Dean's assets in the UK, as he has no assets in Taiwan.

The MOJ insists that Dean will still be required to pay the amount in civil charges after he has served his four-year sentence.

The high court's ruling, effective in all nations of the European Union, is also significant in that it sets a rare precedent for a Taiwanese court ruling to be recognized by legal authorities in a country that does not have official ties with Taiwan.

As for the criminal part of the case, Taiwanese authorities have asked the UK to extradite Dean to Taiwan to serve his prison sentence ever since he was detained in Edinburgh in October last year at the request of Taiwan's authorities. A court in Edinburgh is set to announce a ruling on whether Dean should be sent to Taiwan. The MOJ is prepared to help the family of a hit-and-run victim hire a lawyer in Britain to seize the assets of a United Kingdom citizen found guilty in the fatal case in Taiwan, an official said Saturday.

Such a step will ensure that the compensation is paid to the family, said Huang Yi-chun, deputy head of the ministry's Department of Prevention, Rehabilitation and Protection.

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