2020/11/27  
Frustrated with the court ruling? Have your say as a citizen judge starting 2023 (2020/11/22)
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  • 英文 English 
    Frustrated with the court ruling? Have your say as a citizen judge starting 2023 (2020/11/22)

    Starting 2023, Taiwan's citizens will get the chance to have their say in the judicial system. Earlier this year, the Legislative Yuan passed the Citizen Judges Act, which lets everyday people join professional judges in deciding court cases. This change has been decades in the making, and advocates say it will improve the judicial system. But its critics think Taiwan isn't quite ready. Who's right, who's wrong? You decide! Here's our Sunday special report.

    Two years ago, a man from Taoyuan surnamed Liang killed and decapitated his mother, later throwing her severed head from the 12th floor of a building. In August 2020, the High Court found the man not guilty on grounds that he was on drugs at the time of the incident. Mr. Liang was released.

    Hung Yu-chih (Aug. 20, 2020)
    High Administrative Court
    When cathinone is at its strongest, it can hindering one’s capacity to recognize and behave. So actions under that influence can’t be penalized. Following the legislation regarding injury, this court can only declare him not guilty.

    The not guilty verdict was met with outrage from the general public.

    Kao Ta-cheng (Aug. 20, 2020)
    Forensic doctor
    How can it be that he lost his mind for such a long time, yet still had the capacity to recognize where her neck was, figure a way to hack it off, take the head upstairs and throw it out the building? Did this all happen in his madness? I don’t buy it.

    Internet users lambasted the ruling. Censure was directed toward the “dinosaur judges” for being out of touch with reality. One comment read: “These ‘dinosaur judges’ are so very learned, their heads have burned out.” Others said the judges lacked compassion, and said there was a lack of oversight over their rulings.

    Controversies aren’t new to Taiwan’s judiciary. Over the years, public faith in the courts has become strained.

    Chang Yong-hong
    Judicial Yuan spokesperson
    For a long time – let’s be honest and acknowledge it – public opinion regarding the judicial system hasn’t been great. Many people are unwilling to trust the judiciary. Even in polls conducted by the Judicial Yuan, maybe only about 40% of people say they trust the justice system. It really is a big problem.

    The courts are meant to be the last line of defense for justice in society. But in Taiwan, the verdicts of judges have met outcry again and again. Some critics say the problem is that judges jump from law school straight into the legal system, without experiencing society firsthand. Another problem could be that judges often have similar backgrounds.

    Chang Yong-hong
    Judicial Yuan spokesperson
    You can have three judges, or five judges, or just one. But if you look at their opinions, you’ll find that, since their education and training were the same, their observations are also very similar.

    What makes the divide even greater is the complexities of legalese and court procedures, which can alienate the general public.

    Lin Yung-sung
    Judicial Reform Foundation
    The judiciary is too far removed from the people. I remember there was once a taxi driver, who upon learning that I was a lawyer asked me: “Mr. Lawyer, could you look through this verdict? Did I win or lose?” I asked, “You can’t read the verdict? Let me have a look.” I said, “This is a civil lawsuit. The plaintiff’s appeal has been overruled. You won.” He said, “If I won, why don’t they just write that I won the case? That way I would actually understand what it says. I don’t understand all this fancy language.” This isn’t just the opinion of this one taxi driver. A lot of people share similar feelings. Should we reform this sort of system? I think so.

    After many years of calls for judicial reform, change finally arrived this year. A new legal system was announced, and will soon take effect in Taiwan.

    In July 2020, the Legislative Yuan passed the Citizen Judges Act, marking the advent of a new era for the judiciary.

    Chang Yong-hong
    Judicial Yuan spokesperson
    What we hope to achieve with the introduction of this new system is: First, the extinction of “dinosaur judges.” Second, the extinction of “keyboard warriors.” We hope that the verdicts made by both citizen judges and professional judges can be more in line with one another.

    In August this year, 70 teachers from schools all over Taiwan took part in a mock trial held by the Judicial Yuan. Their mission was to learn how to be a citizen judge.

    Peng Shing-ming
    Judicial Yuan Criminal Department
    The citizen judge system introduces a new civic duty, which you are obliged to fulfill unless you qualify for an exemption. For instance, if you are over 70, or if you are a teacher or a student, you can decline to serve as a citizen judge. If you have no such reason, you must carry out your duty.

    Presiding over a trial as a citizen judge can seem like a daunting task for many people. Some wonder how they’ll be able to pass muster with no expertise or knowledge on the law.

    Chiu Ting-wen
    Judicial Yuan Criminal Department
    What this system needs most is precisely people who don’t understand the law. In the legal system there are trials, investigations and discussions. Prosecutors, lawyers and judges can explain those things. We want to incorporate people from other fields, bring in opinions from non-legal experts.

    A system similar to Taiwan’s citizen judges was implemented in Japan in 2009. In the 10 years since lay judges were introduced, the number of death-penalty rulings has decreased. Lay judges were also more likely to opt for heavy penalties in sexual assault cases. In certain murder cases, lay judges were more likely to choose suspended sentences.

    Lin Yu-shun
    Central Police University professor
    Why would murder case defendants be given suspended sentences? Let’s take a look at cases with suspended sentences. Taiwan nowadays is an aged society. It’s all seniors taking care of seniors. Maybe they’ve been caring for each other for decades and they are physically and mentally tired of it. They may have thought there is no way forward. They are under psychological pressure and extreme stress, so they go for the kill. When their case is taken to a court with citizen participation, lay judges tend to be more understanding of their situation.

    But the citizen judge system is not without flaws. Civic groups say that since citizen judges don’t have a background in law, they may be unduly swayed by the three professional judges present in court.

    Fan Yi-chun
    Citizen judge mock trial participant
    Would we be influenced by the presiding judge or by the opinions of other judges? I think to a certain extent, yes. But the deliberation process puts the comments from professional judges last. Citizen judges share their thoughts before them. I think to some extent that diminishes the influence of the professional judges.

    Lin Yung-sung
    Judicial Reform Foundation
    Say there is a professional judge who tends to lean toward guilty verdicts, who is careless, or who tends not to value human rights. Or even one whose strings have been pulled, who’s been bribed. All these judges still exist in Taiwan. In such a court, wouldn’t a citizen judge system simply serve as a public endorsement of these judges? Isn’t that problematic? That’s what we are concerned about.

    Another worry is whether taking part in trials could put citizen judges in danger.

    Lin Yu-shun
    Central Police University professor
    It’s happened in Japan that a mobster came to watch a trial about a mafia fight that lay judges were participating in. After court was adjourned, the mobster went up to them and said, “Must be hard work! Make sure you make a good judgment.” They were scared to death. So in the end, the trial was presided over by professional judges only, because the lay judges felt it was too stressful.

    The Central Police University professor says the government must create supporting measures so that the public feels comfortable when called to be a citizen judge. He says it’s the only way that the system can endure.

    Lin Yu-shun
    Central Police University professor
    We absolutely have to ensure that the citizen judges who take part are not hunted down, threatened or bribed. Secondly, to get people to sit and listen during the process, we need trials to be simple to follow, clear and fast. The third thing is the ruling itself. We have to put citizen judges at ease, assure them that their rulings aren’t wrong and that they aren’t to blame.

    Taiwan’s judicial system allows appeals in higher courts, meaning a first ruling can potentially be overturned in a second trial. Some wonder whether the rulings made in a citizen judge trial could simply be overruled by professional judges in an appeal.

    Chang Yong-hong
    Judicial Yuan spokesperson
    It already costs a lot of money and time to get citizen judges to take part in the first trial, so its results should be respected. If there is an appeal, judges should consider the case in greater depth before overruling the results of the first trial. It can’t be like before, when the judge could just decide, “I don’t like it, so I’ll overturn it.”

    The judicial system has always had a venerable place in society. This year’s reforms are expected to have a far-reaching impact. But for there to be progress, everyone must be prepared to do their part.
    中文 Chinese  
    鄉民正義與國民法官

    對於一些重大社會案件的判決,您是不是也曾經覺得不滿呢?如果,換您來當法官,您願不願意呢?2023年起,台灣就要實施國民法官制度,未來,一般民眾都有可能會被抽中,要到法院參與刑案審理,當一審法官。司法院強調,這不僅是「國民的新義務」,也是台灣百年來重要的司法改革。國民法官制度將會遇到什麼樣的問題呢?一起來關心。

    桃園一名吸毒的梁姓男子,兩年前殺害親生母親,甚至砍下頭顱從12樓丟下,該案今年8月二審判決出爐,男子獲判無罪,當庭釋放。

    [[洪于智 高等法院行政庭長 (2020.8.20)]]
    “卡西酮類物質作用最強的期間,致其辨識行為能力已經降低,所以是屬於不罰,依照傷害的規定,所以我們本院只能判決無罪”

    吸毒殺母卻無罪的消息傳出,社會輿論一片譁然。

    [[高大成 法醫 (2020.8.20)]]
    “難道有辦法瘋好幾十分鐘,還有辦法認清她的脖子在哪裡,還有辦法把她砍下來,再拿去樓上丟下來,這種情況,難道真的是在發瘋時做的嗎,我不相信”

    網路上一片撻伐,有人說,「恐龍法官讀書讀到頭殼燒掉」,還有人批評法官違反人性,而不用受到監督。

    爭議判決加上法官收賄醜聞等,諸多問題,一再挑戰民眾對司法的信心。

    [[張永宏 司法院發言人]]
    “我們長期以來,必須要很誠實的承認,就是我們一般的民眾,其實對於司法的評價並不高,很多民眾其實也不願意相信司法,即使是司法院做的(民調) ,可能也只有4成的民眾,願意相信司法,所以其實這是一個很大的問題”

    司法被視為社會正義的最後一道防線,但法官的判決卻屢屢受到挑戰,部分原因是法官從學校畢業後,直接進入司法體系,缺乏社會歷練,法官之間,彼此的觀點也較為雷同。

    [[張永宏 司法院發言人]]
    “法官就算你是3個,5個或者是只有一個,你的觀察面向,因為我們受到的教育都一樣,我們受到訓練都一樣,可能觀察面向是很一致的”

    此外法律用詞艱澀,程序複雜,一般民眾較難理解,造成司法隔閡。

    [[林永頌董事長 民間司法改革基金會]]
    “司法跟人民距離太遠了,我記得曾經有一個計程車司機,知道我是律師,就問我說,律師,我這判決書幫我看一下,我是贏還是輸,我說你有判決書你不會看,好,我幫你看,你是民事被告,原告之訴駁回,你贏了,判我贏,為什麼不寫被告贏了,這樣我就看得懂了,文謅謅我都看不懂,這個不是計程車司機的聲音,是很多人的聲音,這樣的制度要不要改,要吧

    改革司法已是社會多年的呼求,而如今新的改革制度,在社會各界多年折衝之下終於誕生。

    今年七月,立法院通過了「國民法官法」,宣告新的司法改革時代,正式來臨。

    [[張永宏 司法院發言人]]
    “我們希望說我們這個制度的引進,第一個讓恐龍法官絕跡,第二個讓鍵盤法官也絕跡,讓所有的判斷,國民的判斷跟法官的判斷,應該要盡可能趨於一致”

    今年8月,來自全台70位各級學校老師,在司法院所舉辦的模擬法庭中,開始學習如何當國民法官。

    [[彭幸鳴廳長 司法院刑事廳]]
    “國民法官制度,等於是一種國民新義務,這樣子的一個情形之下,他除非有特別拒卻的事由,比如說70歲以上,或者說他是老師或是學生,他可以拒絕來擔任國民法官,如果都沒有這些事由的話,他必須來盡這樣的義務”

    只是聽到自己要當法官,多數民眾不免擔心,如果不具有法律專業知識,要如何當法官呢。

    [[邱鼎文法官 司法院刑事廳]]
    “其實我們這個制度,正是需要不會法律的人來,因為法律現在有很多審檢辯,包括現職的檢察官,律師還有法官來做說明,這樣就可以了,我們要吸納的是,其他領域專業,法律以外專業的想法”

    台灣的「國民法官制度」,類似於日本在2009年就開始實施的「裁判員」制度,根據研究,10年來判死刑的件數呈現下降,而性侵案件最容易被裁判員重判,但是某部分的殺人案件,卻可能獲得緩刑。

    [[林裕順 教授 中央警察大學刑事警察學系]]
    “為什麼殺人會判緩刑,因為我們看到判緩刑是怎樣,我們台灣現在也是老年社會,都是老人照顧老人,照顧幾十年了,已經身心俱疲了,覺得我實在沒辦法再撐下去了,基於這種人的精神壓力,極度的壓迫情況下,下了重手,這個回到人民參審的法庭來看,比較容易去體諒 “

    不過國民法官制度,也潛藏一些問題,民間團體就擔憂,在國民法官法庭中,由於民眾沒有法律背景,可能會受到三位職業法官意見的影響,出現權威效應

    [[范毅軍 老師 台南市後甲國中模擬法庭國民法官]]
    “會不會被審判長,或者是其他法官的意見所引導,我覺得多多少少會有,可是以這個討論的過程來講,專業法官的意見,會擺在最後,而一些國民法官的意見會擺在前面,我覺得已經儘量減少一些,專業法官引導的問題”

    [[林永頌 董事長 民間司法改革基金會]]
    “萬一如果這職業法官是比較有罪推定,比較草率的,比較沒有人權的,甚至被干涉或者甚至貪瀆的,台灣的法官還有這樣的現象,如果這種情況之下,國民法官這個制度,不就幫他背書了嗎,會不會有這樣的問題,擔心的是這個”

    此外,國民法官坐上審判台,會不會有人身安全的威脅,也是一大隱憂。

    [[林裕順 教授 中央警察大學刑事警察學系]]
    “確實日本也有因為,在審判過程當中裁判員處理到黑道火拼的案件,黑道的小弟來旁聽,小弟退庭之後去跟他講一聲,辛苦了,請你好好判,他們(裁判員)嚇(scared)死了,所以這個案子法院就改成職業法官來審,因為裁判員覺得壓力太大了”

    林裕順認為,政府的配套措施要做足,讓人民能夠安心參與審判,制度才能長久。

    [[林裕順 教授 中央警察大學刑事警察學系]]
    “我們一定要保障參加的國民法官,他的人身不會被肉搜,不會被威脅利誘,第二個在過程當中,他怎麼樣能靜下來聽,你審判過程要夠簡單,而且要夠清楚,要夠迅速,第三個就是你判決結果,讓他能安心,讓他覺得他自己沒有判錯能負責”

    由於台灣的法院屬於覆審制,一審判決有可能在二審被改判,未來國民法官一審的判決,會不會到了二審,又被職業法官所推翻呢。

    [[張永宏 司法院發言人]]
    “因為一審已經耗費大量的時間,讓國民法官進來參與審判,我們必須要尊重這樣的審判結果,二審應該在他的審查密度上面,所謂撤銷人家的標準上面,必須要重新斟酌,不能再用以前說,我看不順眼我就撤”

    司法一向具有至高而超然的地位,而如今權力下放,確實是台灣百年來重大的變革,國民法官制度,能否負重前行,還有待各界共同努力。
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