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September 5, 2016

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Plea bargaining now permitted under crime law

CHINA’S legislature has approved plea bargaining in criminal cases.

At the final meeting of the legislative session of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee on Saturday, a proposal to allow suspects and defendants to plead guilty in return for a lesser charge was approved.

The measures will be piloted in 18 cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, according to the proposal submitted by the Supreme People’s Court and Supreme People’s Procuratorate to the National People’s Congress Standing Committee.

“Suspects and defendants who are willing to confess, agree with prosecutors’ crime and sentencing proposals, and sign affidavits, will be given mitigated punishments,” said the proposal.

The measures will take effect on September 4.

Zhou Qiang, president of the SPC, explained that it was inappropriate to pursue cases where there was insufficient evidence

Therefore, suspects and defendants should be encouraged to confess, which he claimed would help prevent the extraction of confessions through illegal methods such as torture.

The new plans will enable courts to pass sentences without unnecessary investigations and debate, and before a defendant’s final statement is heard.

The scheme will encourage defendants to “plead guilty to a lesser charge” while protecting the rights of defendants and victims and protecting society’s interests, according to the proposal.

Zhou said the scheme would increase judicial fairness and efficiency. Though China has seen a decline in serious criminal cases threatening social order, the number of minor cases is still large and they are not always efficiently dealt with by understaffed judicial departments.

Defendants who face jail terms of under three years fall under the pilot.

Suspects should be informed of their legal rights and the consequences of plea bargaining proposed by police and prosecutors should be carefully scrutinized, Zhou said.

Those who plead guilty non-voluntarily will not be included in the pilot, and judicial assistance will be provided to suspects to prevent judicial error, Zhou said, adding that the pilot would be strictly supervised by the Ministry of Public Security and the SPP.

Those involved in trading power for money, judicial corruption, or extorting confessions through torture will face severe punishment, said Zhou.


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