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Court's judgment becomes a joke

A RULING by a court in eastern China, widely circulated online, has not only become something of a running joke among Netizens but has also raised worries over the competency of grassroots judicial staff.

Firstly, the ruling by the Dongzhi County People's Court in Chizhou City, Anhui Province, said the sex-related crime had taken place "on a day in February or March in 2008," suggesting judges had no clue as to the accurate timeline of the felony for which four people were convicted, the Guangzhou Daily reported yesterday.

Secondly, the case seemed to be about prostitution according to the facts adopted by the court but three defendants were charged with gang rape and the case should have been referred to a higher court.

Thirdly, although convicted of gang rape, which carries a minimum sentence of 10 years and can incur the death penalty, the three were sentenced to just five years in jail.

It all began when three men - Zha Daoyou, Xu Zaijin and Zhang Linjun - wanted to hire a prostitute "in February or March" last year.

Zhan Ranmeng took a prostitute surnamed Shen to meet the three in a hotel in Dongzhi at 11pm. Another man, Xu Wensheng, joined them.

Shen, who thought she should have been paid more for her part, called the police on June 24, 2008.

The court issued its ruling on June 5 this year saying Zhan was guilty of arranging the prostitution and punished her with two years' imprisonment with probation.

Zha, Xu Zaijin and Xu Wensheng were found guilty of gang rape.

Xu Wensheng said he was forced by police to admit having sex with Shen otherwise his family would be notified, but the court didn't accept his evidence, his brother said.

A Guangzhou-based lawyer surnamed Liu, who uploaded the judgment online, said the ruling was full of loopholes and completely wrong.

The director of the Dongzhi court's general office, who was identified as Yuan, didn't deny the existence of the judgment, but explained it was partly due to police negligence.

Police never tell them the accurate time of the crime as they themselves didn't know it, according to Yuan.

Gao Guiwei, the chief judge in the case, declined to comment but said defendants had appealed to the higher court and the case would be discussed at future hearings.

Xu Songlin, vice dean of South China University of Technology's law school, said no judicial procedure was allowed for a case without an accurate time.

He said he couldn't imagine police could refer such a case to prosecutors, prosecutors could file the suit or that the court could issue a sentence in such a case.


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