BEIJING, Aug. 29 (Xinhua) -- China is considering the piloting of plea bargaining in criminal cases, as part of efforts to find balance in criminal justice decisions.
China's top-level bi-monthly legislative session started on Monday and will mull over the proposals that will allow suspects and defendants to plead guilty in return for a lesser charge.
The measures will be piloted in 18 cities, including Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Chongqing, Shenzhen, Xiamen and Guangzhou, according to proposals submitted by the Supreme People's Court (SPC) and Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP) to the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee.
According to a statement from the NPC Law Committee, the pilot aims to "further improve criminal procedures, implement a policy combining punishment with leniency and more reasonably allocate judicial resources."
"Suspects and defendants who are willing to confess, agree with prosecutors' crimes and sentencing proposals, and sign affidavits, will be given mitigated punishments," said the statement.
Zhou Qiang, president of the SPC, told lawmakers that the pilot aims to "more timely and efficiently punish crimes in order to maintain social stability."
Zhou explained that based on the Criminal Procedure Law there should be no punishment in cases where there was doubt or insufficient evidence, but that in practice it was often difficult to obtain sufficient evidence, especially in cases where concealment was involved.
Accordingly, he said that suspects and defendants should be encouraged to voluntarily confess, which would help prevent the obtaining of evidence through illegal methods such as torture.
Procedures will also simplify the imposing of a lesser charge where the defendant agrees to enter a guilty plea, he said, but added that prosecutions could restart if prosecutors later found crimes were omitted.
The new plans will enable courts to pass sentences without unnecessary investigation and debate, and before a defendants' final statement is heard.
The pilot will continue to encourage "pleading guilty to a lesser charge" and will fully protect defendants' rights and strengthen the judicial protection of human rights, Zhou said.
Zhou said that the pilot would boost judicial fairness and efficiency. Though China has seen a decline in serious criminal cases threatening social order, the number of minor cases is still large and they are not always efficiently dealt with by understaffed judicial departments.
Defendants who face jail terms of under three years fall under the pilot.
Suspects should be informed of their legal rights and the consequences of plea bargaining by police and prosecutors who should also listen to the opinions of suspects and their lawyers, Zhou said.
Cases concerning key state interests, those who voluntarily admit to crimes, and those involving suspects performing praiseworthy acts may be exempt from punishment in some cases.
Those who plead guilty non-voluntarily will not be included in the pilot, and judicial assistance will be provided to suspects to prevent judicial error, Zhou said, adding that the pilot was strictly supervised by the Ministry of Public Security and the SPP.
Those involved in trading power for money, judicial corruption, or extorting confessions through torture will face severe punishment, said Zhou.
After the two-year trial, the top legislature will revise relevant laws depending on the effects of the proposals.