Citizens will be able to participate in criminal trials starting in 2023 as the relevant bill has finally passed its third reading after a 30-hour heated debate in the Legislative Yuan. For applicable cases, there will be three professional judges and six randomly-selected citizen judges. A ruling will require a two-thirds majority.
Lawmakers have passed the third reading of the Act of Citizen Participation of Criminal Judgment, which will go into effect in 2023. In applicable cases, including cases with at least a 10-year sentence or involuntary manslaughter cases, rulings will be handed down by three professional judges and six citizen judges over the age of 23. A ruling, including the death penalty, will be carried by a two-thirds majority. Citizen judges will be selected by random draw and employers must give them time off. Citizen judges' identities will be protected.
The ruling party has to shoulder the responsibility of consequences. To protect the rights of people involved in civil suits and make sure their rights are appropriately taken care of, we have decided to move forward with a more conservative approach.
Why can citizen judges only participate in cases involving a crime with a sentence of at least 10 years? Everyone knows that Taiwanese society has been after civil participation in criminal judgment for a very long time. They don't just want to participate in 5-600 cases (a year).
The Democratic Progressive Party and New Power Party caucuses supported the bill, while the Taiwan People's Party blasted the DPP for rashly forcing it through and damaging the quality of Taiwan's legislative system.
The DPP and Judicial Yuan accept parallel systems. Why in judicial reforms and national trust -- these are important cores. However, we were unable to convince them and unable to get the support of the committee members of other political parties.
Judicial reform groups held a silent sit-in outside the legislature and blasted the DPP for ignoring public sentiment and forgoing even a mixed-court trial period.
The DPP is dishonest and acting against public opinion. We condemn them for this.
During a press conference, Judicial Yuan President Hsu Tzong-li called the passage a "historic reform" in Taiwan's judicial history and said civil participation in criminal judgment is what the people want.
In future lawsuits, files and evidence will no longer be sent to the court. Judges will not be able to access evidence until the ruling.
Asked about the problem of insufficient legal knowledge, Hsu said the courts will be asked to avoid using legal terms and legalese so that "civil judges" can understand what is going on. At the same time, the court will ensure the lives and safety of the judges are protected. In addition, a Judicial Yuan assessment committee will start meeting annually to evaluate the system starting from the sixth year of promulgation.