Criminal Justice in China
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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.
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Chapter 9: The trial: case file analysis

Mike McConville


INTRODUCTION In this chapter we set out the findings generated by our case file analysis. Our researchers were provided with a ‘case file analysis schedule’ (see Appendix 3), and their task was to search the files in order to find answers to some 76 questions touching upon every aspect of the first instance trials. We emphasize once again that the answers we found are based on files kept by the court, and our researchers were wholly reliant on what the prosecutors/judges chose to record in these files. We found that the case files, or ‘dossiers’, were broadly similar across different research sites which appears to be the product of development through practice and not wholly driven by regulations (Zuo Weimin, 2008). We were overambitious in terms of what we could discover from the files alone, and it is right to record that some of our questions failed to generate consistent and meaningful data. This was partly because the files of the procuratorate were obviously not designed for research purposes and partly because our researchers sometimes failed to understand the import of some of the questions on the schedule. Despite these shortcomings, analysis of the case files gives an important insight into what happens at the trial stage of the criminal justice process in China. What the files reveal is for the most part consistent with what our researchers observed (the subject of the next chapter), and, as we demonstrate below, what we were told by judges, prosecutors and defenders in...

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