Judicial reform advocates yesterday called for the implementation of a jury system for criminal cases and the end of life-long tenures for judges, changes they said are needed to restore trust in the judicial system.
The call follows a Judicial Yuan report released on Monday detailing the alleged involvement of judicial officials in a corruption case centered on former Supreme Court judge Shih Mu-chin (石木欽) and Chia Her Industrial Co (佳和集團) president Weng Mao-chung (翁茂鍾).
Legal experts and media reports have called the case “the biggest corruption scandal in the history of Taiwan’s judiciary,” due to allegations of widespread bribe-taking, abuse of authority, conflict of interest and other alleged illicit activities by more than 200 judicial and government officials, including judges, prosecutors, investigators, military and police officials, and some political figures, to whom Shih reportedly introduced Weng.
Photo: Wang Yi-sung, Taipei Times
Taiwan Jury Association members said the report had shown that control mechanisms at the Judicial Yuan and Ministry of Justice have broken down.
A more comprehensive probe into the matter is needed to root out corruption, association director Chen Wei-shyang (陳為祥) told a news conference in Taipei.
“Another serious problem is controlling materials and court files pertaining to the scandal, which are in the possession of the justice system,” Chen said, adding that the ministry only made a portion of the files available to Control Yuan members to conduct a probe.
Association founder Jerry Cheng (鄭文龍) said the report shows that judges believe “they are above the law; that they can manipulate and play with the law.”
Cheng said the case highlights the problem in giving judges life-long tenure.
“The system allows these corrupt judges to take bribes, be bought off and still keep their jobs,” he said. “Taxpayers have to provide the salary and pension for these corrupt judges for life. This goes against reason.”
“Life-long tenure for judges must be changed. It is not possible to determine whether a person has moral principles and good ethics just by passing an examination to become a judge. Limited terms are needed, and some posts should be filled with attorneys and prosecutors who have shown good conduct and that they are not tainted by unscrupulous behavior,” Cheng said.
Attorney Chang Ching (張靜), who previously worked as a judge and prosecutor, said that he hoped the ministry and Judicial Yuan would take this opportunity to reflect on themselves “and make real changes” to fix problems revealed in the case.
“If they do not, Taiwanese will no longer have faith in the justice system, nor will they expect to have true judicial reform,” Chang said.
Control Yuan member Wang Mei-yu (王美玉), in presenting the report, said that “this case has severely damaged our nation’s justice system, its reputation to carry out justice based on the principles of equality and fairness for all people, and eroded the public’s trust in the government.”
Following criticism of shortcomings and deficiencies in reports on the case, Judicial Yuan President Hsu Tzong-li (許宗力) said he would launch a comprehensive investigation that would name all the judges found to have engaged in improper conduct with Weng.
Minister of Justice Tsai Ching-hsiang (蔡清祥) said that the ministry would root out all officials found to have been involved in the case, would submit materials and documents from the ministry’s Investigation Bureau, and seek to clarify aspects of the report that lack details.
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