Criminal Justice In China: An Empirical Inquiry – by Michael McConville

Mike McConville, dean of Faculty of Law, Chinese University of Hong Kong, and a team of researchers spent 16 years to create the authoritative Criminal Justice In China: An Empirical Inquiry.

It is very telling that Mike stated in the book launch press conference, “The judge and the prosecutor join hands with the police in making the case against the suspect.” Take a moment to think about the implication! And also stated, “Party committees which direct the work of the criminal justice courts …”  No wonder Mike finds the criminal justice system in China “very disappointing“.

(See BBC Chinese news and HK Apple Daily news reports some additional information.)

Criminal Justice In China (see also link)
An Empirical Inquiry
Michael McConville
Mike McConville, Dean, Faculty of Law, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
April 2011 c 584 pp Hardback 978 0 85793 190 0

‘Criminal Justice in China is the most comprehensive work to date on the functioning of China’s criminal justice system. This book is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand any aspect of the system. There are important insights on virtually every page, including in depth study of the role of police, procuracy, courts, and defense lawyers. The book will be of value to anyone interested in governance in China.’
Benjamin L. Liebman, Columbia Law School, New York, US

Contents: 1. Introduction 2. Sources of Police Cases 3. Police Powers in Relation to Detention and Arrest 4. The Construction of the Police Case 5. Pre-Trial Preparation of Prosecutors 6. Pre-Trial Involvement of Judges 7. The Construction of the Defence Case 8. Trial Procedure, Rules, Setting and Personnel 9. The Trial- Case File Analysis 10. The Prosecution Observed 11. The Defence at Trial Observed (1) 12. The Defence at Trial Observed (2) 13. Trial Outcomes Observed 14. The Process and the System 15. Conclusion Appendices Bibliography With contributions from: Satnam Choongh, Choy Dick Wan Pinky, Wing Hong Eric Chui, Ian Dobinson and Carol Jones

[…] 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.

With unprecedented access to prosecution case files, observation of live trials and interviews with judges, prosecutors and defence lawyers, the book paints a uniquely detailed picture of China’s criminal justice system as it operates in everyday cases. Among the major themes explored are: bail; detention; torture; confessions; the role of police, prosecutors and judges; the work of defence lawyers; pre-trial and trial practice; and sentencing practices, including the death penalty. The book shows, through volumes of quantitative data and the voices of judges, prosecutors and defence lawyers, how the party-state continues to influence and control both the process and outcome of criminal trials through an elaborate system of audit and sanction, the result of which is a system of aggregate rather than individual justice.

With a wealth of original empirical data, this book will be of significant interest to academics and postgraduate students in the general area of Chinese studies, human rights, criminal justice and comparative criminal justice. Policy makers, politicians and development agencies will also find it invaluable.”

Additional information for the record

In Mike’s “Ongoing Research Projects“, he stated the following. Now the research is finished and the book published, I wonder how much has Mike’s views on China’s criminal justice system been changed? Can China’s criminal justice system be repaired piecemeal or fundamental changes have to be implemented to overhaul the system?

An Empirical Study of the Criminal Justice System in China (2001 – )
This project seeks to identify ways in which the gap between the “law in the books” and the “law in action” in China might be closed by monitoring the operation of the current law and assessing what is needed to enable those charged with its operation to fulfil the aim of the legislators. To better enable criminal justice actors to operate the system and meet the new expectations placed upon them, many donor organizations and countries have offered China assistance, particularly in the area of capacity building. Whilst some of the early assistance focused on law reform, more recent initiatives have involved practical training programmes for judges, prosecutors and police officials, much of which has been delivered out-of-country. Attempts have also been made to show Chinese judges and officials how trials work in the Anglo-American system of criminal justice. This project aims to identify areas where assistance can be more effectively targeted in the future. The project will involve a reliable, empirical study conducted within China to provide a realistic assessment of needs.”


Some additional information from Chinese news reports, “獨立調查:中國沒有司法公正


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