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Thefts against medical patients to be punished harshly


18:56, April 03, 2013

BEIJING, April 3 (Xinhua) -- A new legal interpretation includes harsher punishments for those who steal from medical patients and their families on the grounds that such thefts are more malignant than typical thefts.

The Supreme People's Court (SPC) and the Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP) on Wednesday jointly issued a legal interpretation on the handling of theft-related criminal cases, lowering the threshold for recognizing thefts that occur in hospitals or that target patients or their relatives as criminal cases.

SPC spokesman Sun Jungong said stealing from the sick causes more dire consequences than stealing from the healthy and therefore deserves harsher punishments.

Medical care is quite expensive, if not unaffordable, for many Chinese.

The legal interpretation raises the threshold for recognizing thefts as criminal cases to match economic growth and the increase in residents' income.

According to the new threshold, theft of money or belongings worth 1,000 yuan (161.3 U.S. dollars) and above can be recognized as stealing a "large sum of money", while the 30,000 yuan mark and above is classed as stealing a "huge sum of money." The 300,000 yuan mark and above is classed as theft of an "especially huge sum of money."

In the previous legal interpretation, which was put forward by the SPC in 1998, the threshold for stealing a "large sum of money" was 500 yuan.

The new legal interpretation will come into effect on April 4.

According to SPC statistics, there were 190,825 and 222,078 first-trial theft cases in 2011 and 2012 respectively, representing 22.72 percent and 22.51 percent of all first-trial criminal cases of the respective year.

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