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China has tested a software programme designed to "help decide prison sentences", Reuters reports.

According to Hong Kong's South China Morning Post, judges in Zichuan District Court in the city of Zibo, Shandong province, have for the last two years entered details of a crime into a computer which then delivers its verdict.

Whether the judicial PC has the final say is, however, unclear as Reuters notes that "court rulings are often decided by 'trial committees' made up of judges and Communist Party officials".

Nonetheless, the software's developer, Qin Ye, told the paper: "The software is aimed at ensuring standardised decisions on prison terms. Our programs set standard terms for any subtle distinctions in different cases of the same crime."

Zichuan District Court chief judge, Wang Hongmei, added: "The software can avoid abuse of discretionary power of judges as a result of corruption or insufficient training."

To date, more than 1,500 defendants have been sentenced by the programme, into which developers incorporated mainland Chinese criminal law encompassing around 100 crimes, including murder, rape, robbery and "state security offences". It will now be deployed in more Shangdong courts, the South China Morning Post notes.

Some Chinese papers, however, have condemned the e-judge software as a further example of the "laziness of the court". They also doubted that it would do much to tackle corruption. ®

Bootnote

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