Offenders who plead guilty to minor offences will be fast-tracked under proposed reforms

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 June, 2014, 6:34pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 June, 2014, 6:37pm

The country’s top legislature is reviewing a proposed pilot system to fast-track processing of petty offences in 18 cities that legal experts view as a cautiously positive step to legal reform.

Under the pilot system, legal proceedings would be conducted more quickly and simply if defendants accused of minor offences agreed to plead guilty, the Beijing News reported.

Fast-tracking proceedings would only available for clearcut cases concerning offences such as theft or dangerous driving, in which a jury or deliberation were not necessarily required, the report said.

Penalties for such cases would be no more than one year, according to the Beijing News.

The pilot is being introduced after Beijing announced last year it will abolish the notorious reeducation through labour system, which allowed authorities to sentence people to up to four years of forced labour without trial.

Courts in Chengdu, Sichuan province, introduced a similar system in April to fast-track verdicts of minor crimes, in bid to “deal with the increasing number of minor offence cases… after the abolition of the labour camp system”, state-run Sichuan Daily reported.

An official of the Supreme Court told the Beijing News the proposed fast-tracking system would make the country’s justice system more efficient. It has been suffering increasing manpower shortages with the number of minor offence cases soaring in recent years.

China listed drink driving as a criminal offence in 2011, and the number of cases has been increasing as car ownership rises, according to Hou Xinyi, a law professor of Nankai University.

Legal experts said the pilot system would have a positive impact on China’s legal system, especially when local courts are under rising pressure from minor crimes.

Law professor Tong Zhiwei, at Shanghai’s East China University of Political Science and Law, said such measures would free more resources for major cases. He added it “would be a positive step only when the rights of defendants are not sacrificed”.

The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress is expected to issue a final decision over the proposed pilot on Friday.

Once passed, the pilot would be implemented in 18 cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen in the following two years.