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China launches legal assistance pilot program for all defendants

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-10-12 15:11

BEIJING - China has launched a pilot program to ensure every criminal defendant has access to a defense lawyer for their trial.

The Supreme People's Court and the Ministry of Justice jointly released a document Wednesday which stipulates that if a defendant has not retained a lawyer himself/herself, the court should inform legal assistance agencies to appoint a defence counsel for the defendant.

At present, a defense lawyer is only mandatory for juveniles and defendants with certain physical or mental disabilities, or in cases where the defendants face life imprisonment or death penalty sentences.

According to the document, if the appellate court finds that a defendant has not been allocated a defense lawyer due to the court's failure to correctly inform legal assistance agencies, the original ruling should be revoked and the case should be sent back for a retrial.

The document also guaranteed financial assistance for the services.

It required lawyers to be diligent in their work and improve the quality of their defense services.

The pilot program, which will run for one year, was launched in eight provincial-level regions -- Beijing, Shanghai, Zhejiang, Anhui, Henan, Guangdong, Sichuan and Shaanxi.

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