Full Text: Judicial Reform in China (21)

(Xinhua)

15:04, April 17, 2013

6. Protecting the Legal Rights and Interests of Juvenile Suspects and Offenders

China adopts the measure of combined punishment and protection to help juvenile offenders and does the utmost to rehabilitate them and get them reintegrated into society. China specifies the principle of "education, persuasion and rehabilitation" for juvenile offenders, sticking to the principle of applying primarily educational measures, and taking punitive sanctions as ancillary means. The judicial organs assign officials who have a good knowledge of the physical and psychological characteristics of minors to handle juvenile cases. If a minor defendant has not appointed a defender, the judicial organs should notify a legal assistance agency to assign an attorney to defend him/her. There are strict rules regarding the arrest of a juvenile suspect or defendant. When a people's prosecutor's office reviews and approves an arrest and a people's court decides on the arrest of a minor, the minor shall be questioned and the defense attorney's opinion shall be heeded. Minors held in custody, arrested or are under criminal punishment shall be detained, administered and educated separately from adults. During the interrogation and trial of juvenile criminal cases, the legal representative of the minor should be present. The court may also inform the minor's other adult relatives or representatives of his/her school, work unit, place of residence or juvenile protection organizations of the trial so that they shall be present. If the legal representative or any other relevant person present believes that the legitimate rights and interests of the minor have been infringed upon during the interrogation or trial, he/she may express his/her opinion thereon. The interrogation or court records shall be made available on the spot to the legal representative or other relevant person present to read or be read out to them. When female juvenile suspects are interrogated, a female officer shall be present. For a minor whose offence is not serious, therefore may be sentenced to less than one year in prison but who has shown remorse, the people's procuratorate may decide not to proceed with prosecution, with conditions attached. The judicial organs may take into consideration the family and school background, cause of crime, guardianship and education of a juvenile offender and use them as reference when handling the case. Trial of cases in which the offenders are under the age of 18 shall not be open to the public. If the offender is under 18 at the time of the crime and sentenced to less than five years of imprisonment, the records of the crime shall be sealed. These records shall not be disclosed to any institution or individual unless they are required by judicial authorities for handling cases or by relevant institutions for inquiry in accordance with state regulations. Amendment Eight to the Criminal Law promulgated in 2011 makes clear the conditions under which probation is applicable to a minor. It also stipulates that juvenile offenders do not constitute recidivists. By July 2011, a total of 2,331 juvenile courts had been set up across the country. From 2002 to 2011, thanks to efforts from all sectors of society, the rate of recidivism of China's juveniles remained at 1% to 2%. In recent years, cases of juvenile delinquency have been falling, and the proportion of juvenile offenders among the criminal population is gradually decreasing.

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