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Experts Witness Judicial Reform
The capital's law courts have launched a reform on expert testimony to regulate judicial appraisals and reduce corruption.

Judicial assessment is one area of evidence which the People's Court entrusts or nominates to a legal appraiser or expert witness to examine a special issue arising during a court hearing.

For example, a handwriting expert needs to be called as an expert witness when the reliability of handwritten evidence is called into question.

In the past it was left to the judge to appoint an appraiser.

Legal experts, however, felt this could affect the judge's independence and neutrality, and leaving the appointment of appraisers solely in the hands of the court could more easily give rise to allegations of, or acts of, corruption.

The current reform on judicial assessment is aimed at distancing the judge from expert nomination, thereby reducing the possibility of corruption and ensuring judicial fairness, said Zhai Jingmin, a senior official with the Beijing High People's Court and the man in charge of this reform.

He said the High People's Court would compile a directory of organizations with various fields of expertise by the end of the first quarter of next year.

In the future when an expert witness is required to determine an area of evidence the parties concerned will be able to choose an appraiser from the register.

If agreement cannot be reached as to the choice of the expert witness then one will be selected at random from six candidates proposed by the parties.

Expert witnesses appearing in court answer questions from the judge or parties concerned, Zhai said.

Both appraisal organizations and individuals can apply to be on the register and the High People's Court will decide whether they are suitably qualified to be included.

The register will be applicable to all courts at all levels in Beijing. The High People's Court will review the listed appraisers annually and those who fail to meet requirements will be removed from the register, said Li Dayuan, another senior official with the High People's Court.

(China Daily December 7, 2002)

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