Alexa

New legal system aims to make judicial process more efficient

New legal system aims to make judicial process more efficient

A senior English criminal lawyer explained to his Taiwanese counterparts at a seminar yesterday that placing lawyers on police station duty - a plan that has been effect in England for over two decades - has enabled many cases to avoid going to trial and has saved a great deal of the British police force's time and money.
"Now, both the police and lawyers share a common aim that if there is to be a conviction, it must be reliable. The judiciary appreciates that trials do not waste time on disputes about how the police behaved and arguing about the reliability of confessions, which used to involve hours of expert evidence," said Anthony Edwards, a duty Solicitor and former president of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association.
Edwards was invited to give lectures in Taiwan by the Legal Aid Foundation, as he was one of the lawyers who wrote the first draft of this plan 21 years ago.
The foundation is going to implement a pilot of a similar strategy in Taiwan starting in September.
"Our foundation has worked with local police stations around the island to run a project starting September 17. We will send lawyers free of charge to clients being interrogated for the first time by the police or prosecutors," said Joseph Lin, the Legal Aid Foundation's Taipei Branch chairman.
"The pilot will start with only one police station in each branch office of our foundation nationwide, then the scope of the project may broaden, depending on the outcome of the trial run," he said.
"Clients who are either mentally challenged or charged with a three-year sentence or above with financial disadvantages can apply for our service," Lin said.
Systematic assistance
The Legal Aid Foundation was founded by the Judicial Yuan, related governmental entities and community groups, and began operations on July 1, 2004 with the aim of providing systematic assistance to those who require legal assistance but are without the means of paying the costs of legal fees, according to the foundation's Web site.
Edwards instructed local attorneys on what should be done by lawyers posted at police stations.
"We are there to give our clients support so that they do not suffer from the fear that comes with being arrested and detained. We are also there to make representations to assist our client by assuring that their well-being is protected," Edwards said.
Even more importantly, he said, lawyers must be able to identify how vulnerable their clients are and identify police conduct that is unacceptable. They must therefore strongly represent the need for appropriate disclosure and ensure that the police do not use techniques during interrogations that may lead to the gathering of unreliable evidence.
"To accomplish these goals, nonetheless, the duty lawyer must be able to handle pressure which is almost as important as knowing your law," he said.
Edwards explained to the attendees that he qualified as a solicitor in the 1970s at a time the English criminal justice system was falling into disputes. The problem, as he claimed, was that the police were obtaining confessions in circumstances that were not satisfactory and even proved to be false.
"In reaction to this, a Royal Commission was established in 1978 to study why those detained in custody made false confessions. Its report made several recommendations including the need for each suspect to have someone in the police station whom they understand to be 'on their side,'" Edwards disclosed.
Independent legal advice
The report led to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 which came into effect in 1986. The Act gave suspects the right to independent legal advice and the solicitor was given the responsibility to advise and to assist the defendant, he said.
The senior criminal lawyer focused on four areas, including obtaining information from the police, giving initial advice to the client, intervention in interview and representations as to bail.
He also advised the foundation on important issues in implementing the pilot.
"Two crucial issues to focus on, first, the quality of the lawyers who join the project, and second, the costs of implementing it," Edwards said.
He disclosed that the English government is going to change the hourly fee paid to duty lawyers into a fixed fee next month since the police station duty lawyer scheme has cost almost 30 times more than the official had expected, a move which he predicts will be strongly opposed by his colleagues.
Edwards reminded that the foundation to take the pilot as a great opportunity to evaluate how much money and man power are needed in running this system.
The senior British lawyer will hold lectures in Kaohsiung, Taichung and Taipei for the rest of the week, and will meet the commissioner of the Criminal Investigation Bureau Haung Mao-sui and President of the Judicial Yuan Weng Yuen-sheng tommorow before leaving on Saturday.


Updated : 2021-03-03 10:28 GMT+08:00