Courts told to help compensate crime victims

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 January, 2007, 12:00am

Top judge calls for state-funded system to help the weak

The Supreme People's Court will set wheels in motion this year to create a state-funded system for compensating victims of crime who cannot get redress through civil courts for their losses, a glaring fault in the mainland judicial process.

At their annual planning session in Beijing on Sunday, the country's most senior judge also told courts to improve services in rural areas, where dissatisfaction with the judiciary has led to rioting.

Supreme People's Court president Xiao Yang said that if there was no special system to ensure that impoverished people, in particular, were compensated for crimes, the court system would become an arena for combative parties where the weak would be unable to enjoy real justice.

Cao Jianming , vice-president of the Supreme People's Court, told local courts to start work this year on creating such a compensation system. Under mainland criminal law, victims of crime can demand civil compensation from their assailants, but in practice only about 20 per cent receive timely payouts, if at all, according to some estimates.

In the rest of cases, criminals may not have the financial capacity to compensate the victim's losses, police may not solve the crime, or victims in urgent need of medical care may have to wait a long time to have their cases heard.

In the case of recently executed Shaanxi serial killer Qiu Xinghua , families of Qiu's 11 murder victims were unable to get compensation because he did not leave an estate.

The failure of many victims to get payouts has become a regular source of petitions and a serious headache for mainland authorities.

Hainan University law associate professor Wang Lin praised the idea of a state-funded payout system, but suggested the government, rather than the courts, should be responsible for administering the payouts.

'The court is the ruling authority, and it should be impartial to both victims and criminals. The government should work on social welfare, and the fund could come from the government's budget,' Professor Wang said.

Xinhua also reported that Mr Xiao ordered local courts to improve the processing and execution of cases brought by farmers, highlighting land disputes, illegal charges, fake agricultural products and interference in local elections as causes for particular attention.

The frequency of rural riots is rising on the mainland as more non-urban residents become aware of their rights. In 2005, at least three farmers were shot dead in a riot over a land dispute in Shanwei , Guangdong. In the same year, there were riots in Guangdong's Taishi village, where villagers attempted to recall their corrupt headman.

On the cases of 'mass incidents', a euphemism for riots and protests, Mr Xiao said the courts should manage the relationship between local administrations and the public, 'ensuring the administrations legally implement their powers and protect the legal rights of citizens, legal representatives and other organisations'.