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Legal aid advances rights of suspects

By Zhang Yan (China Daily) Updated : 2018-10-08

Legal aid working offices have been set up in all detention houses and courts across the country to offer free legal services to suspects and defendants in a bid to protect their legal rights, a senior official from the Ministry of Justice said.

At least one lawyer is designated to be stationed at these offices.

"Under the mechanism, lawyers will offer free timely legal services to suspects and defendants involved in criminal cases during the entirety of judicial proceedings, including during police interrogations and court sentencings," Lin Xi, deputy director of the ministry's legal aid department, told China Daily.

"In particular, lawyers will play roles to monitor judicial officers, and prevent them from mistreating suspects or using coercive means to obtain evidence or confessions," she said.

In recent years, there have been some complaints involving the violation of the legitimate rights of suspects who can't meet lawyers during detention periods or don't have lawyers to represent them at hearings, and this has attracted extensive media attention.

Last August, judicial authorities - including the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Justice - jointly issued a notice to stipulate that legal aid centers would send lawyers to man all detention houses and courts.

The notice further clarified the lawyers' duties, the center's operation mode and supervisory policies.

The designated lawyers will offer timely legal consultation to defendants and their family members. They can help suspects apply for free legal aid services, such as asking legal aid centers to send lawyers to represent their cases during court trials, Lin said.

Moreover, they will offer proposals about charges or sentencing standards for suspects; they will witness suspects as they sign confessions; or if they discover police mistreating suspects or using other illegal means to collect evidence, they will immediately help them appeal to a higher prosecutorial department.

A typical case occurred in December last year when 35-year-old Li Qiang, a migrant worker in Henan province, quarreled with his neighbor due to a chore.

Li fought with him, with the latter sustaining serious facial injuries.

He was arrested by local police on suspicion of intentional injury and was detained.

During the detention, on-duty lawyer Wang Yongli met with him and told him about the charging and sentencing standards of intentional injury.

The lawyer advised him to compensate the victim in order to obtain a more lenient ruling.

In addition, Wang helped him to ask a local legal aid center to assign a qualified lawyer to represent his case.

Lin said the courts, the prosecuting departments, the public security organs and justice departments should set up a joint meeting system for criminal legal aid work.

Under such a mechanism, they will regularly meet to exchange information and discuss concerns, then make detailed plans to solve existing problems.

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