(May 11, 2010) Taiwan's Legislative Yuan adopted the Law on Swift Criminal Trial on April 23, 2010, in 14 articles. The purpose of the legislation is to ensure that criminal defendants receive a speedy and fair trial. The Law will come into force in different stages. Some of its key features are:
- Limits are set on the number of times detention periods can be extended per each trial instance in cases involving serious crimes (more than 10 years of imprisonment, life imprisonment, or the death penalty) – six times each for the first and second instances, and once for the third instance (art. 5, para. 2).
- The period of criminal detention is limited to a maximum of eight years in total during the entire trial process; if that detention period has been served without a decision having been rendered, the detention should be deemed canceled and the court should release the defendant (art. 5, paras. 3 & 4). These provisions enter in force two years after the Law is promulgated.
- If a case has been in the courts for more than six years and assigned for retrial by the Supreme Court more than three times, and a not-guilty verdict has been handed down by the courts of first and second instances more than two times, prosecutors cannot appeal the case to the Supreme Court (art. 8).
- If court proceedings in a serious criminal case have gone beyond eight years without a final verdict having been reached, a defendant who is found guilty has the right to request the court to review such matters as delayed trial proceedings, the relationship between the degree of complexity of the case and procedural delays, and other matters related to speedy adjudication, and to consider whether the defendant's right to a speedy trial has been violated. If there has been a serious violation of that right, the court can consider commuting the defendant's sentence (art. 7).
(Legislature Passes Speedy Trial Bill, TAIWAN TODAY, Apr. 26, 2010, available at http://taiwantoday.tw/ct.asp?xItem=100473&ctNode=452&mp=9; Legislative Yuan Adopts at Third Reading the “Law on Swift Criminal Trial” [in Chinese], LAW BANK, Apr. 26, 2010, available at http://www.lawbank.com.tw/fnews/news.php?type_id=19&seq=1&nid=80
Taiwan's press has pointed out potential problems with the new legislation. An article in the UNITED DAILY NEWS notes that, as a result of the bill's provisions, defendants charged with the same crime may be treated differently because of differences in length of time of adjudication of their cases, prosecutors and judges may be enabled to help defendants by delaying trial proceedings, and the role of the Code of Criminal Procedure has been usurped and criminal procedure confused because of the limits set by the bill on detention periods and on prosecutors' power to appeal. The article avers that “[t]he root cause of criminal trials becoming cumbersome is that the Supreme Court repeatedly remands cases to lower courts for retrials.” (Maubo Chang, United Daily News: Comments on Speedy Trial Act, Apr. 25, 2010, CENTRAL NEWS AGENCY, available at http://www.etaiwannews.com/etn/news_content.php?id=1237044&lang=eng_