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Guardians aid youth offenders

2013-01-18 10:51 Global Times     Web Editor: Gu Liping comment

Juvenile offenders in Beijing whose parents cannot attend their trial will be assigned a guardian as a legal representative to protect their rights.

Similar systems have been adopted in other areas of the country, like Tianjin and Yunnan Province.

The anti-juvenile crime unit of the Capital Comprehensive Administration Committee (CCAC) said Tuesday it would assign an "appropriate adult" to these youth offenders.

According to the Beijing government's website, a guardian can be a lawyer, teacher, social worker and other people who are willing to protect juveniles.

"In situations when juvenile offenders' parents or other older relatives cannot be informed, or when they are unable to get to the juvenile, guardians will be present as juvenile offenders' legal representative," the website said. So far, there are 360 guardians in Beijing.

Zhang Wenjuan, deputy director of Beijing Children's Legal Aid and Research Center, said she believes this is an improvement in child protection within China's legal system.

"These guardians will be present in the interrogation and trial; they are supposed to defend the juvenile's rights like their family," Zhang said.

However, Zhang said she was still uncertain about the rights of guardians, and she does not know whether the guardians can protest when police try to trap or force juveniles into a confession.

Zhang cited the example of a case in 2005 in Chaohu, Anhui Province, in which four juveniles were mistakenly arrested by police and tortured to make fake confessions.

"Their parents were not by their side, nor did they have guardians. They wouldn't have suffered if there were people by their side to argue for them and protect them," said Zhang.

Wang Jie, from the Capital Normal University Study and Service Center of Juvenile Justice Social Work which has been participating with CCAC on this project, said their social workers have attended many cases as a guardian.

"Many parents can't attend trials as they are either too poor or are the victims, sometimes even accomplices of the crimes. So guardians speak for juveniles' rights and would also participate in the background research of juvenile offenders to help judges understand their situation better and make a more just verdict," said Wang.

Li Na, a judge at the juvenile court in Changping district, said that although guardians can help juveniles, they can never replace parents.

"What they can do is really limited, for example, they cannot talk about compensation, or apologize on behalf of the juvenile. I believe bringing parents to the court is still the best choice," said Li.


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