Juveniles who commit crimes in Changsha, capital of Hunan Province, may not be tried in court as local prosecutors hope that offering young delinquents one last chance will help them turn their life around, the Changsha-based Xiaoxiang Morning News reported Wednesday.
Under the trial program, the city's Yuelu District People's Procuratorate will generally not put juveniles or students on trial if they are first time offenders, commit unintended crimes, found to be criminally negligent, are a subordinate accomplice, use excessive force to defend themselves, voluntarily turn themselves in to the police or reach a mediated settlement.
"It's a good try to give young people a second chance, but the rules are ambiguous," Zhang Peihong, a lawyer specializing in the Criminal Law from the Shanghai Zhaijian Law Firm, told the Global Times. "However, the definition of a juvenile, including their age, is not mentioned in the rules."
Chinese laws define a juvenile as someone under the age of 18. According to China's Criminal Law, juvenile over 14 years old should take criminal responsibility for eight specific crimes, including intentional homicide, drug trafficking, arson, rape and robbery. Suspects over 16 years old can be tried for any crime.
"It's necessary and understandable to have such a pilot program, but they need to nail down more specific rules," Zhang added.
Xiong Bingqi, an education expert with the 21st Century Education Research Institute, said such rules must adhere to criminal laws and regulations.
"Charges can't be dropped if a suspect intentionally kills someone but also meets one of the conditions for leniency," said Xiong. "The prosecutor's office aims to educate juveniles and give one more chance."
The current Criminal Law, amended in 2011, requires most convicted criminals to report their record when they apply to the military or for a job.
Changsha is not the only city to give juveniles who commit crimes a break. Local courts in Beijing plan to adopt the newly-amended Criminal Procedure Law starting next year. The law allows some convicted juvenile offenders to have their criminal records sealed, in an effort to help them find jobs or further their education.
According to the law, those who are under 18 and are sentenced to less than five years in jail or to a non-custodial sentence do not have to tell employers of their past conviction, a revision from the current requirement that they report their records when applying for employment.
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