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Beijing lawyers avoid low-earning crime cases: report

By Li Ying (Global Times)

08:31, December 02, 2011

Beijing-based lawyers prefer civil and economic lawsuits rather than criminal cases, according to a Report on the Development of Beijing Lawyers (2011), released Wednesday by the Beijing Lawyer Association.

In 2009, the average number of criminal cases per Beijing lawyer was 0.53, merely one third of the national average, the report says, and more than 80 per cent of defendants in criminal cases did not engage lawyers.

Under the country's current justice system, criminal lawyers often encounter difficulties in criminal proceedings, said Wu Danhong, associate professor in law at China University of Political Science and Law, and a criminal lawyer.

"It can be difficult for defense lawyers to meet the accused, as well as obtain evidence, which prosecutors often consider to be secrets in the investigation," said Wu.

There are even occasions when the court starts a trial without informing the defense lawyer, as the justice system stipulates that the lawyer should go to court in person to ascertain when the trial date will be, and lawyers do not have time for that, Wu said.

In China, it is not obligatory to appoint a defense counsel. The court appoints lawyers to defendants who are juvenile, blind, deaf or dumb, those on trial for a capital offense, and those who fall under a definition of poverty, Wu noted.

Wu said he believed the status of defense lawyers should be improved, and they need to be given more rights.

Low earnings from criminal cases also puts lawyers off taking them on.

"A lawyer may earn hundreds of thousands of yuan from an economic case but can only get thousands from a criminal one," said Wu.

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