Laws regarding mentally ill criminal offenders under review: minister

Minister of Justice Tsai Ching-hsiang

TAIPEI (CNA) — The government is reviewing the laws pertaining to criminal offenders with mental disorders, Minister of Justice Tsai Ching-hsiang (蔡清祥) said Wednesday, following the controversial acquittal last week of a man accused of killing a police officer.

Tsai said his ministry on Tuesday discussed a proposed amendment to the Criminal Code, which would allow the courts to extend the custodial protection of offenders found not guilty on grounds of diminished responsibility.

The initial conclusion of the discussions was in favor of an amendment that would allow the courts to extend the maximum custodial period for up to three years, at the prosecutors’ request, Tsai said.

The proposed amendment would place no limit of the number of times prosecutors could seek such extensions, and it would mandate an annual evaluation of the offender while in custodial protection, Tsai said, before attending a legislative committee hearing on the current state of Taiwan’s social security network and how it could be improved.

His statements came nearly a week after the Chiayi District Court acquitted 54-year-old man surnamed Cheng (鄭), who was charged with the fatal stabbing of a 24-year-old railway police officer on July 3 last year.

The court however ruled that Cheng, who was found to be mentally ill, should be kept in custodial protection for five years for public safety.

Lee Cheng-han (second from right) trying to subdue Cheng (third from right).

The ruling sparked strong reactions both in the public and the government, with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) expressing support for an appeal of the case, which prosecutors have filed in the Taiwan High Court in Tainan.

On Wednesday, the Judicial Yuan submitted a law amendment proposal to the legislative committee to deny bail to offenders like Cheng after acquittal.

Cheng, however, is still in detention because his family was unable to pay the bail.

On the question of a detention facility specifically for offenders with mental disorders, Justice Minister Tsai said his ministry and the health ministry have come up with a solution but the details have not yet been discussed.