Justifiable changesFor the first time in Korea, an accused criminal has been released on bail without paying any money and was able to appear before a judge without being physically detained. The Fourth Court of Criminal Appeals of the Seoul Central District Court released the five accused criminals after they wrote a pledge, saying, “I will attend my trial diligently and will not destroy any proof that a crime did or did not happen.”
It is our sincere hope that this court ruling will bring innovative changes to today’s convenience-oriented trial practices, as well as greatly improve and protect the rights of the accused.
The five people freed are among the first beneficiaries of the amended criminal procedural act, which took effect on the first day of 2008. The act was designed to clamp down on irrational rules, such as the requirement that the accused had to be detained to make sure he attended his trial if he didn’t have any money for bail. In accordance with suggestions made by the committee on promoting judicial reform, Article 98 has been deleted. It said, “The accused can be freed if he pays a deposit which guarantees his diligent attendance at the trial.”
The previous bail-related regulations were clearly unfavorable to accused people without any money. That’s how the phrase -- If you have money, you are innocent, but if you don’t, you’re guilty -- was coined.
An under the table “success fee,” paid in return for freeing an accused person being held in detention, also has taken root. This kind of policy led to distrust of the judiciary. In addition, it encouraged hatred of the rich, which caused trouble in society.
The court made it clear why it granted bail: “These five people are asset-related criminals, neither burglars nor murderers. Some of them had a low involvement in the crimes. Therefore, we expect they will be sentenced to probation.”
In other words, prosecutors had made a practice of indicting people expected to be put on probation so they could confine them for the investigation. With the amendment to the criminal procedural act, we expect that prosecutors will be spurred to make changes to their investigative practices.
They should no longer be tied to the notion of “disciplinary effect of being detained,” which means that physical detention is still seen as a kind of punishment. That is because guaranteeing the rights of the accused while conducting investigations, and trials without detention will serve to make judicial justice a reality in the near future.