The spokesman of the court of justice has reiterated that regional chief judges are legally empowered to screen the decisions of the lower courts and to write advisory reviews if they disagree with the verdicts. The judges of the lower courts, however, are independent and have the final say.

The spokesman, Mr. Suriyan Hongvilai, clarified today that the screening of the verdicts of the lower courts before they are delivered by the regional chief judges is not regarded as an interference with the decisions of the judges of lower courts. The practice of judicial review is, however, clearly specified in the regulations of the court of justice. They require judges of the court of first instance and the appeals court to report important cases to the president of the Supreme Court and empowers regional chief judges to screen the verdicts of judges of lower courts relating to such cases.

The cases, which are considered important and subject to the review process, include security-related, terrorism, narcotics trafficking, economic crime, environmental, human trafficking and capital cases, as well as crimes carrying prison sentences of 10 years to life, cases concerning public figures, such as the Prime Minister, cabinet members, senators, MPs, judges, public prosecutors and senior civil servants, among others, and cases which may affect international relations.

Mr. Suriyan explained that the regional chief judge can assign on of his deputies or other senior judges attached to the regional court office to review the verdicts.

He insisted that the screening of the decisions is designed to ensure that the verdicts meet the required standards and are as fair as possible to the opposing parties.

This clarification by the spokesman was in response to the allegation, made by Yala provincial court chief judge Mr. Khanakorn Pianchana, that the chief judge of Region 9 had meddled in his handling of a murder case by suggesting the some of the defendants should be sentenced to death, while the rest be sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

Mr. Khanakorn, however, acquitted all the defendants on the grounds of insufficient evidence.

Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS)

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