Taipei, Most people in Taiwan are in favor of citizens joining judges in criminal trials, believing citizen participation will lead to sounder verdicts and greater acceptance of the judicial system, a Judicial Yuan survey has found.
In the survey on a draft Citizen Judges Act, 72.91 percent of respondents “agreed” with the idea that having citizens discuss criminal trials with judges can result in verdicts that are consistent with the law and meet people’s expectations.
Roughly the same percentage agreed with the proposition that having citizens discuss criminal cases with judges and jointly deciding the verdicts would increase trust in the judiciary.
The poll also asked respondents if they felt citizens should join with judges in voting on the verdict or having only citizens vote on the verdict (as in a jury), and 86 percent supported a system where judges and citizens rendered verdicts together.
Constitutional Court Chief Justice and Judicial Yuan President Hsu Tzong-li (許宗力) said the survey results showed most people support a “joint trial, joint ruling” system where citizens discuss cases with judges and hand down rulings with them.
The survey came out at a time when a draft bill proposing citizen participation in criminal trials is being screened at the Legislature.
The bill was one of the initiatives President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) stressed during her inaugural address for her second term on May 20, 2020, and her Democratic Progressive Party, with its majority in the Legislature, seems ready to push it through.
Hsu promoted the bill at the press event in Taipei at which the survey results were released.
“Some said it is too soon to pass the legislation during the current extraordinary session of the Legislative Yuan,” but such an opinion ignores people’s urge to join criminal trials over the past 30-plus years, Hsu contended.
The draft act has been discussed many times before being brought to the Legislative Yuan, Hsu said, and even after it clears the legislative floor, it will not take effect for the next two and a half years as “preparations” are made.
“As long as people can sit in court desks to participate in trials, it is already a landmark change to the prosecution system,” Hsu said.
Taiwan currently uses a system where judges oversee trial proceedings and deliver verdicts.
Some civil groups, including independence-advocating organizations, have suggested Taiwan adopt a jury system, under which a group of citizens is designated and empowered by the law to participate in legal proceedings during criminal trails.
They argued that verdicts should be handed down “in accordance with people’s experiences in daily lives” while judges concentrate on determining sentences, calling such a system “true democracy.”
The survey was conducted via telephone interviews from July 1-14 on randomly-selected adults aged over 20.
A total of 1,074 valid samples were collected for the poll with a 95 percent confidence level. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.0 percentage points.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel