Compensation may be increased for mental suffering

[Photo/VCG]

China’s top court is considering raising the level of compensation for mental anguish for people subjected to wrongful legal decisions, a senior official said.

The measure would better protect the legitimate rights of those people and may be paired with changes to more strictly regulate judicial conduct, the official said.

“We’ve noticed public complaints saying the current compensation standard for mental suffering is too low to make up for the harm to people who were wrongly convicted or wrongfully detained,” said Zhu Erjun, deputy director of the Compensation Office with the Supreme People’s Court. “We’re studying how to solve the problem, such as trying to increase the standard.”

Zhu disclosed proposals on compensation for mental anguish over wrongful legal decisions to China Daily after a news conference on general compensation issues on Tuesday. He did not release details of the proposal or when it might be issued.

A current judicial interpretation states that payment for mental anguish should not exceed 35 percent of the state compensation that a person receives for damages to property or loss of personal liberty, he said. Zhu called the current standard “far from enough, especially in cases of those who are wrongly sentenced to death or other extreme penalties”.

State compensation cannot eliminate the mental pain suffered by victims and their families, “but can at least help improve their lives a little, and it’s the determination of the courts to respect human rights and regulate judicial conduct in handling cases,” he added.

From the beginning of 2013 to the end of October 2018, courts nationwide dealt with about 28,000 state compensation cases, including several high-profile ones in which defendants were paid in a timely way after acquittal, he said.

Among them, the family of Nie Shubin of Hebei province received 2.68 million yuan ($385,000) in compensation, including 1.3 million yuan for mental suffering, after Nie was found not guilty in December 2016 of the rape and murder of a woman due to insufficient evidence. Nie had been found guilty and executed in 1995 at age 21.

Also in 2016, Chen Man, who was wrongly imprisoned for 23 years for intentional homicide and arson, received 1.85 million yuan in compensation for restriction of his personal freedom as well as 900,000 yuan for mental anguish.

In February, Zhou Qiang, president of the top court, urged all courts to make efforts to review and correct wrongful criminal convictions and ensure that state compensation is implemented.

Wang Wanqiong, a criminal defense lawyer from Sichuan province responsible for Chen’s case, said she is happy to hear the standard is to be raised. She said state compensation should catch up with the country’s rapid economic development.

“The standard in the current judicial interpretation was written in 2001, and it is out of date,” she said, suggesting the top court lift the standard as quickly as possible.