Violent criminals’ faces to be shown to public

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Violent criminals’ faces to be shown to public

Suspects in Korea’s worst violent crimes will soon have to show their faces to the public, as the Justice Ministry revises investigative guidelines that previously had hidden suspects from view, multiple sources told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday.

Under the new regulations, where there is strong evidence of guilt and a public demand to know, prosecutors will be able to release the names and ages of accused sex offenders and vicious criminals, and allow the media to photograph their faces.

The new guidelines will be finalized within the month, the sources said. They follow a new package of laws from the National Assembly that provides for harsher punishment of child sex offenders.

Both moves follow national outrage over the brutal rape of an 8-year-old girl known as Na-young by Cho Du-sun, 58, in 2008, and the rape and murder of 13-year-old Lee Yu-ri, who was abducted from her home in February by Kim Kil-tae, 33, a senior prosecutor said.

Before Kim’s arrest in March, suspected criminals wore masks when they appeared before the press. Kim’s photo had been released to the press before his arrest, when he was still wanted for questioning in connection with Lee’s murder. The practice to shield suspects’ faces grew out of human rights concerns, and some experts believe it should still be upheld.

Seo Suk-ho, an attorney at Kim and Chang, warned that unilaterally revealing suspects’ identities against their will violates the presumption of innocence.

But others approved of the soon-to-be adopted regulations.

“If [prosecutors] can accurately describe their charges, revealing a suspect’s identity doesn’t violate the presumption of innocence,” said Moon Jae-wan, a law professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.

In a related move, the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office yesterday issued new guidelines to its 18 district prosecution offices stating that child rape victims do not have to appear in court. Rather than calling the young victims to the stand, prosecutors will be allowed to submit videotaped testimony as evidence.

“The young victims had to face their attackers as they gave open testimony, and there were criticisms that that could deepen their pain,” said prosecutor Lee Yeong-ju.

In the past, judges could ask for both live testimony and written or videotaped statements, depending on the strength of the evidence.

The new guideline encourages prosecutors to collect the victims’ testimony at their homes, without requiring written statements, Lee explained.

Experts warned that the new system could be flawed, as many judges will not accept videotaped testimony if prosecutors ask leading questions.

The soon-to-be adopted guideline encourages prosecutors to appeal if the tapes are not accepted as evidence at trial.

“The new guideline should also require prosecutors to bring [psychological] experts when they question young victims,” human rights attorney Lee Myeong-ju said.


By Lee Chul-jae, Kim Mi-ju [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]

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