Starting from next year at the earliest, suspects that have been arrested by investigative agencies for committing mugging, rape and other felonies that are sentenced more than three years of sentence will be able to receive pro bono legal counsel by public defenders. The Ministry of Justice announced on Thursday that it will preliminarily announce in mid-March amendment acts for the Legal Aid Act and the Criminal Procedure Act to introduce the “Public Defender System.”
The Public Defender System will provide public legal counsel service at the start of the investigations to prevent illegal investigative acts such as torture and forced confessions.
The Court has provided public defender service since 2004 at the onset of the trial stage, including the issuance of arrest warrants, substantive investigations, based on existing legislation. If the government’s legislative bill passes the National Assembly, suspects will be granted access to the public defender service prior to trial.
The Ministry of Justice is planning to remove this “partition” between the court to ensure that suspects can be assisted by a public defender, which will consist of a pool of legal counsels.
When introduced, some 8,000 suspects will be expected to benefit from the system every year. “As more people apply for the service, more budget will be required," the ministry said. "We are planning to gradually expand the service, starting out with those in the low-income group.”
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