New rules re­duce con­vic­tion er­rors

Na­tional guide­line ex­pected to im­prove the han­dling of ev­i­dence and lead to fairer tri­als

China Daily (USA) - - TOP NEWS - By CAO YIN caoyin@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Ju­di­cial ex­perts wel­comed a new na­tional guide­line on crim­i­nal pro­ce­dure re­form this week, hop­ing it will con­trib­ute to re­duc­ing wrong­ful con­vic­tions.

While ju­di­cial re­forms have been on­go­ing in China, the mile­stone, 21-clause guide high­lights the re­forms in all courts through greater stan­dard­iza­tion in the process of han­dling cases.

The guide­line puts greater em­pha­sis on the role of tri­als and how ev­i­dence is han­dled. Po­lice, pros­e­cu­tors and judges have to pay more at­ten­tion to the qual­ity of fact-find­ing and iden­ti­fy­ing ev­i­dence, “which is a big change in deal­ing with a case and will ef­fec­tively pro­tect the rights of de­fen­dants and im­prove im­par­tial­ity of judg­ments,” Ren­min Univer­sity of China law pro­fes­sor Li Fen­fei said on Tues­day.

The guide­line, is­sued by the Supreme Peo­ple’s Court and the Supreme Peo­ple’s Procu­ra­torate, along with the min­istries of pub­lic se­cu­rity, state se­cu­rity and jus­tice, has stirred lots of in­ter­est in the le­gal com­mu­nity since it was re­leased on Mon­day.

“In the past, we fo­cused more on the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, but now the guide­line asks ev­ery ju­di­cial worker to con­sider court tri­als as the ju­di­cial core,” Li said. “In other words, how ev­i­dence is used has be­come cru­cial and will lead or guide ju­di­cial work­ers in han­dling a case.”

Shang­hai crim­i­nal lawyer Ruan Chuan­sheng said, “The le­gal­ity of ev­i­dence col­lec­tion is a cru­cial point in mak­ing a fair de­ci­sion and avoid­ing wrong­ful con­vic­tions.” Ruan said he was glad to see the doc­u­ment high­light the re­quire­ment for no pun­ish­ment to be ap­plied in doubt­ful cases.

Ruan, a le­gal worker for more than 10 years, said he also is happy to see the doc­u­ment say that “in­ter­ro­ga­tions should be im­proved to pre­vent forced con­fes­sions, and au­thor­i­ties may not oblige sus­pects to in­crim­i­nate them­selves”.

It also for the first time ad­vo­cates a sys­tem to re­view the le­gal­ity of in­ter­ro­ga­tions in big or in­flu­en­tial cases.

“The re­quire­ments will guide the be­hav­ior of po­lice of­fi­cers in in­ves­ti­ga­tions and re­duce mis­takes and flaws in fol­low­ing pro­ce­dures,” he said. “Jus­tice is not only based on judges. It also re­lies on le­gal in­ves­ti­ga­tion and pros­e­cu­tion. When each le­gal body strictly reg­u­lates it­self and re­duces mis­car­riages, jus­tice is not far away.”

Courts, pros­e­cu­tors and po­lice must co­op­er­ate in en­sur­ing that in­no­cent peo­ple are not wrongly con­victed, he added.

Bian Jian­lin, a law­pro­fes­sor at Chin a Univer­sity of Po­lit­i­cal Science and Law, said re­forms in crim­i­nal pro­ce­dures came af­ter a se­ries of wrong­ful con­vic­tions in China, which harmed ju­di­cial cred­i­bil­ity and trig­gered so­cial ou­trage.

One high-pro­file wrong­ful judg­ment was the ex­e­cu­tion of teenager Hugjil­itu in In­ner Mon­go­lia. He was found guilty of rape and mur­der in 1996 and put to death. But he was de­clared in­no­cent in De­cem­ber 2014, years af­ter he was wrong­fully con­victed.

“The change will also strengthen lawyers’ role in cases,” said Wang Wan­qiong, a crim­i­nal lawyer whose client Chen Man was de­clared in­no­cent this year af­ter be­ing wrong­fully jailed for 23 years.

Wang also called for more spe­cific rules on how to pun­ish those who vi­o­late the guide­lines. “We ur­gently need a rule with teeth. We must pun­ish mis­takes to let le­gal in­sid­ers re­al­ize how cru­cial it is to abide by crim­i­nal pro­ce­dures and avoid tor­ture in in­ter­ro­ga­tions,” she added.

When each le­gal body strictly reg­u­lates it­self ... jus­tice is not far away.” Ruan Chuan­sheng, a crim­i­nal lawyer from Shang­hai

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