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City to expand legal aid coverage for criminal defendants

    Shanghai Bureau of Justice has recently released a document to guarantee that all criminal case defendants get legal assistance.

    After the new Criminal Procedure Law of the People's Republic of China became effective in 2012, Shanghai Bureau of Justice and Shanghai Higher People's Court reached a consensus to make criminal case defendants who could be sentenced for more than three-year imprisonment eligible for getting represented by defense lawyers.

    Xuhui District and Putuo District had piloted the program first and achieved good results. In 2017, 21,361 criminal cases were covered with legal aid, with a year-on-year growth of 137.2 percent.

    According to the new document, entitled the Detailed Rules for Full Coverage of Lawyer's Defense in Criminal Cases, legal aid will be provided to criminal defendants of minority ethnic groups and from overseas. For defendants of joint crimes in which one of the defendants has already entrusted a defense lawyer, the other defendant will be assigned a defense lawyer.

    The document also stipulates that Shanghai Higher People's Court should also provide the legal assistance stations with office space and facilities, arrange free sign language personnel for the physical challenged defendants.

    And if the second instance courts find out the first instance court didn't assign a defense lawyer representative to the defendant, the second instance court has the right to reverse the first instance court's ruling.