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Leniency for Convicted Politicians, Bizmen to End

Posted August. 21, 2010 14:29,   


Meting out lighter punishment to politicians and businesspeople for crimes on the basis of their contributions to national development will likely end.

A special subcommittee on the revision of criminal law under the Justice Ministry said Friday that it prepared a draft revision bill limiting the conditions for legal leniency at the judge`s discretion. The bill will be openly discussed at a public hearing on Wednesday.

The ministry plans to gather opinions at the hearing and finalize and submit the revision bill by year`s end.

Legal leniency at the judge`s discretion is a policy under which a judge reduces the severity of a sentence by up to half by considering the defendant’s situation. Article 53 of the Criminal Law says "When conditions are found to give special consideration in a criminal case, the penalty can be lessened."

As a result, judges have been criticized for reducing prison terms at his or her arbitrary discretion. Even if politicians and businesspeople commit crimes that require a prison sentence of up to six years, they are often released as their sentences are reduced to less than three years on the basis of their contribution to national development.

The conditions for legal leniency are that it must be a criminal case; the defendant must be a first-time offender; the offender reaches a compromise with the victim; the criminal confesses to his or her crime; he or she is a habitual offender but commits minor crimes; and the victim offers a cause for the crime. These conditions must be stipulated in the legal provisions.

The subcommittee also decided to exclude the causes for leniency often cited in previous criminal cases, including accidental offense, the criminal’s atonement for a crime, and contribution to national development.

With its members having differing views about whether to include in the conditions for leniency the clause "When there are other reasons to consider the situations for leniency," however, the subcommittee decided that the ministry should gather more opinions from related agencies before making a decision.

The subcommittee judges that even if "other reasons" are included in the conditions, the practice of giving lighter punishments to politicians and business gurus will significantly decline if such conditions are applied in a strictly limited fashion.

It also decided to nullify a clause on levying heavier punishment to a habitual offender or a criminal who commits multiple crimes. Instead, a new clause provides for "protective detention” of up to seven years for serious crimes including murder, robbery, rape and arson.