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Uphold procedural justice

China Daily | Updated: 2013-05-08 08:01

The best way to prevent miscarriages of justice is to let the law be what it is.

This is what Shen Deyong, executive vice-president of the Supreme People's Court, says in a signed article commenting on several verdicts that were overturned recently.

In one of them, a villager called Zhao Yanjin in North China's Hebei province was wrongly sentenced to life imprisonment for hiring someone to kill a child in 2001. She was held in custody for a total of 10 years until she was acquitted early this year.

The local intermediate court acquitted her in 2005 for lack of evidence, but she was arrested and the court sentenced her to life imprisonment in 2008 simply because the victim's grandfather threatened to commit suicide if she was acquitted.

In another case, a young man from Zhejiang province was sentenced to death with a reprieve and his uncle to 15 years imprisonment in 2004 after being convicted of raping and killing a woman in late 2003. Both were finally acquitted in March after being in prison for 10 years.

Both cases were not that complicated. Had the local police observed the proper procedure and the local courts stuck to the principle of assumption of innocence, three innocent people would not have been incarcerated for such a long time and the true culprits might have been punished accordingly.

The awareness of local police and judicial workers needs to be raised so they adhere to the proper procedure. And both higher authorities and public opinion should refrain from putting so much pressure on the police that they could frame an innocent person. Often the police are required to crack a murder case in a given period of time, regardless of whether it is feasible or not. Such an order only pressures the police into adopting illegal means, such as extorting confessions from a suspect by torture or taking soft evidence as solid evidence, in order to charge someone before the deadline expires.

Whatever the circumstances, proper procedure must be maintained at all times.

It is important that those who break the law are punished, but it is also important that proper custody and court procedures are followed to prevent any innocent people from being wronged.

(China Daily 05/08/2013 page8)

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