Criminal Justice in China

Criminal Justice in China

An Empirical Inquiry

Mike McConville

The political, economic and social transformations that have taken place in China over the last half-century have had a major impact upon the formal methods, institutions and mechanisms used to deal with alleged criminal infractions. This path-breaking book, based upon the largest and most systematic empirical inquiry ever undertaken in China, analyses the extent to which changes to the formal legal structure have resulted in changes to the law in practice.

Chapter 11: The defence at trial observed (1)

Mike McConville

Subjects: asian studies, asian law, law - academic, asian law, criminal law and justice, human rights, politics and public policy, human rights


In this and the next chapter we report on the way in which the defence was conducted in the 227 trials involving 335 defendants that we observed. As we have already described the processing of cases in both summary and simplified ordinary procedure, the emphasis in this chapter will be upon cases tried under ordinary procedure. We begin our account by looking at cases in which the defendant did not have the benefit of legal representation before moving to those cases in which there was a lawyer appointed by the court. In the next chapter we deal with cases in which the defendant was represented by a lawyer who was privately retained. UNREPRESENTED DEFENDANTS Legal Representation in China: the Law As previously stated, the right to a fair trial is widely accepted to be a fundamental human right. Chinese law allows any individual to hire a lawyer in a criminal case, but the appointment of a lawyer is required only in limited circumstances as set out in Article 34, 1996 CPL, namely in respect of juveniles, those who are deaf, mute or blind and those charged with offences carrying the death penalty. In recognition of the need to provide legal advice at a more general level China began to develop a legal aid system from 1994.1 That system is, however, far from comprehensive and the legal service provided is of variable quality. Most criminal defendants in China are too poor to be able to afford a lawyer and many defendants...

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