[EDITORIALS]Judicial reforms are too radical

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[EDITORIALS]Judicial reforms are too radical

The Presidential Commission on Judicial Reform is promoting a radical plan to reform criminal court proceedings by giving prosecutors less control over the questioning of defendants in court. Prosecutors have reacted strongly against the idea. The commission says it intends to revise the criminal code to make the system more “court-centered,” as a way of guaranteeing the basic rights of defendants.
Included in the commission’s draft revision is a clause saying that prosecutors’ investigation reports would not be recognized as valid evidence. This clause would make prosecutors’ interrogation of defendants meaningless, because the investigation reports would then be nothing but scraps of paper.
Promoting such a reform plan, especially in the absence of a plea bargain system, amounts to telling the prosecution to keep their hands off criminal investigations. It is unrealistic to propose that prosecutors’ control over questioning should be reduced in order to protect defendants. If prosecutors are prevented from questioning the accused, who will protect the human rights of crime victims?
It is desirable to revise the criminal justice system in favor of protecting defendants’ rights and requiring more strict material evidence. But abrupt judicial reforms that ignore reality will invite enormous confusion.
If the court-centered judicial system is introduced, it is unavoidable that litigation costs will rise, because trials will last longer. That will increase the financial burden on the people. What is more, prosecutors’ investigations will be restrained. If the investigative function of the prosecution is weakened, it will create an obstacle to ending corruption.
Sufficient time should be taken when contemplating reforms to the judicial system. But the presidential commission reportedly prepared its draft revision within a week. Moreover, the draft was produced right after President Roh Moo-hyun said, “The prosecution must surrender power that goes beyond the legal system.” This is why the question of whether there are political reasons for the draft has been raised.
The goal of judicial reform should be to safeguard defendants’ rights and provide the people with a better system. If these reforms turn out to be a plan to make a certain branch of government powerless, it will be a taming under the pretext of reform.
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