Legal experts call for clarity over State compensation
Legal experts and lawyers have called for the government to clarify how much damages should be awarded for wrongful detention under the State Compensation Law.
In recent years, a series of problematic cases have been overturned or corrected, featuring litigants who were wrongly detained or convicted and were given the right to apply for State compensation.
The amount of compensation subsequently awarded has varied widely, however.
Last year, for example, Chen Man, who was wrongfully imprisoned for 23 years for homicide and arson, received 1.85 million yuan ($270,000) in compensation for restriction of personal freedom as well as 900,000 yuan for mental anguish.
But when Gao Chao, a native of Yingkou, Liaoning province, applied for about 177,000 yuan in compensation after being wrongly convicted of organizing crime, he only received 10,000 yuan.
Shi Likang, a criminal lawyer at the Beijing-based Jingshi Law Firm, said during a seminar on Thursday that the State Compensation Law was not clear on how much money should be awarded for mental anguish.
"There is a big variation in the amount of compensation awarded among criminal cases," Shi said, adding that this was detrimental to the pursuit of justice.
Zhang Jianwei, a law professor at Tsinghua University, agreed with Shi, saying that the amount of compensation for mental anguish is generally less than 35 percent of the total compensation offered, under a guideline made by the Supreme People's Court, "but this allows for exceptions".
Wang Jingbo, a law professor at China University of Political Science and Law, suggested that the government and lawmakers highlight elements that should be taken into consideration when calculating the amount of compensation to be awarded.
"It is necessary to make the calculations transparent, with the aim of ensuring the compensation is fair," Wang said.
In addition to compensation, Zhu Wei, another legal researcher from the university, called on courts to apologize to defendants or publish new verdicts when they overturn previous ones, so as to prevent wrongful convictions from affecting the futures of those who have been exonerated.