The nation's top court has issued new guidelines on the reduction of jail sentences and the granting of parole in hopes of demystifying the two processes, which have long been criticised as being abused to serve the interests of corrupt officials. The new guidelines require judges to hold public hearings before granting leniency in cases that fall in one of six categories. They hold that the public must be given advance notice to voice objections to the planned parole or sentence reduction, even when cases fall outside the categories and decisions are made behind closed doors. 'For a long time, the people's courts have decided on the reduction of jail sentences and parole mainly through written judgments,' a Supreme People's Court spokesman told Xinhua. 'This does not help promote scientific decision-making and is not good for protecting the rights of defendants. 'Holding open hearings on these cases could prevent the people from thinking that such processes are carried out in secrecy.' The rules, which take effect in July, require public hearings when defendants request action after assisting the government, when a sentence reduction or parole has not been made in strict accordance with the rules or when cases have attracted intense public interest or are believed to have a big impact on society. Public hearings must also be held if complaints are received during the public-notice period, if prosecutors disagree with a proposed leniency or if a court believes a hearing is necessary. The spokesman said such hearings were restricted to six categories to prevent courts from becoming overloaded. The guidelines - dated November 21, but released on the weekend - represent the first time the SPC has revisited the issue since 1997. Since then, leniency in several corruption cases has made people sceptical about the amount of jail time convicted officials actually serve.