A court in China has used a software program to help decide prison sentences in more than 1,500 criminal cases, a Hong Kong newspaper said on Wednesday.
The software, tested for two years in a court in Zibo, a city in the eastern coastal province of Shandong, covered about 100 different crimes, including robbery, rape, murder and state security offences, the South China Morning Post said, citing the software's developer, Qin Ye.
The software is aimed at ensuring standardized decisions on prison terms. Our programs set standard terms for any subtle distinctions in different cases of the same crime, Qin was quoted as saying.
A Beijing-based software company had worked with the Zichuan District Court in Zibo since 2003 to develop the program and input mainland criminal law, the paper said.
Judges enter details of a case and the system produces a sentence, the paper said.
The software can avoid abuse of discretionary power of judges as a result of corruption or insufficient training, the paper quoted Zichuan District Court chief judge, Wang Hongmei, as saying.
But some Chinese newspapers criticized the move as a farce that highlighted the laziness of the court and that would not curb judicial corruption as touted.
The software would be adopted by more courts in Shandong province, the paper said.
But it did not say how big a role it played in sentencing, as Chinese court rulings are often decided by trial committees made up of judges and Communist Party officials.
Despite campaigns to reform China's courts, judicial abuses, official influence and arbitrary sentencing remain a widespread concern, particularly in lower courts where many judges have not even been to law school.
On Tuesday, the Supreme People's Court said that media spokesmen would be appointed by local courts in China to release information on open trials and court activities to ensure the public's right to know.
But details of cases involving state or commercial secrets, privacy and juvenile delinquency are banned from being disclosed, the Beijing News said.