What’s a "heavy loss"? We may know soon….

The PRC Criminal Law has been often criticized because of the vagueness of its definitions. An example is given by art. 397

A public servant of a state organ who abuses his power of office or neglects his duty, thus causing a heavy loss to public property or interests of the state or the people, shall be sentenced to fixed-imprisonment of not more than three years or criminal detention; and if the circumstance is especially serious, to fixed-term imprisonment of not less than three years and not more than seven years. Where this Law has other provisions, they shall govern.
A public servant of a state organ who practicing favoritism or irregularity, thus committing a crime under the preceding paragraph, shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not more than five years or criminal detention; and if the circumstance is especially serious, to fixed-term imprisonment of not less than five years and not more than ten years. Where this Law has other provisions, they shall govern.[]

[Criminal Law – full text] [刑法全文]

In judicial practice it is not easy to determine when circumstances are “especially serious” (情节特别严重), or when the amount of a loss is “particularly heavy” (特别重大), with the result that very similar crimes can be judged in different ways.

To obviate this problem, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate and the Supreme People’s Court have issued several judicial interpretations which specify the standards for such things as “big and important cases” (重大案件), “particularly big cases” (特大案件) etc.

The thing is, such specifications do not exist yet for the nearly 50 crimes of dereliction of duty (Chapter 9 of the Criminal Law). Yet, dereliction of duty often takes place together with crimes of corruption and of torture. Since 2003, Chinese courts tried 1.200 cases of dereliction of duty a year. 32% were “big and important” cases.

The Supreme People’s Procuratorate started discussing a draft interpretation on “the standards for big cases of dereliction of duty and violation of rights directly under investigation by people’s procuratorates” (人民检察院直接受理立案侦查的渎职侵权犯罪大案标准) at a meeting held ten days ago in Kunming. Hopefully the interpretation will be issued soon.

[SPP] [Caijing]

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