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Law unclear on whether Yingluck could appeal guilty verdict

Aug 24. 2017
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By The Nation

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THE SUPREME COURT will today deliver verdicts in two historic cases involving ex-premier Yingluck Shinawatra, ex-commerce minister Boonsong Teriyapirom and 28 other defendants.

Yingluck and the other defendants are accused of negligence in their official duties that led to corruption and massive financial damage to the state while implementing their government’s rice-pledging scheme.

Yingluck, Boonsong and other defendants could face either outright imprisonment or a suspended jail term if the high court hands down guilty verdicts, or they could be acquitted of one or both of the two charges.

A guilty verdict would raise the key question of whether the defendants could immediately lodge an appeal with the high court, as explicitly permitted by the current Constitution. Or would they instead have to wait for enactment of the new “organic law” on procedures to appeal in criminal cases involving holders of public office.

Under the current Constitution’s Article 195, which came into effect in April this year, defendants facing trials before the Supreme Court’s division for criminal cases against political officeholders have the right to seek a review of their cases within 30 days of the high court delivering a verdict.

This new article departs from the previous 2007 charter, which allowed defendants to lodge an appeal only when the emergence of new evidence and witnesses could alter the judgement.

Under the 2017 Constitution, all defendants may seek a judicial review of cases regardless of whether there is new evidence and witnesses. Plaintiffs can also lodge an appeal with the high court, which was not possible under the previous charter.

In hindsight, the 2007 charter made it difficult to secure a review of high court verdicts, given the strict requirement for new evidence or witnesses. That sparked criticism of a lack of transparency and fairness, especially with regard to the fact that defendants were mainly former holders of political office.

However, while Article 195 of the current charter clearly stipulates the right of defendants and plaintiffs to lodge an appeal, there is a catch: the charter also says the procedures on appeals are to be based on a new organic law, which has yet to be enacted.

Some legal analysts are of the opinion that this could make it impossible for Yingluck and others to seek a review of the high court’s verdicts if they are judged guilty.

In the case of a guilty verdict and prison sentence, Yingluck and defendants will likely seek the high court’s judgement on a temporary release while also lodging a high-court appeal for a judicial review of their cases. A large panel of Supreme Court judges would then meet to decide on both matters. If the high court granted defendants a temporary release, there is a high chance that a new panel of judges would review the verdicts.

On the other hand, if the petitions for temporary release are rejected, it is unlikely that the high court would accept the defendants’ petitions for appeals.

 

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