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(3rd LD) Prosecution, police agree on criminal law procedure revision

All Headlines 17:44 June 20, 2011

(ATTN: UPDATES with Lee's comments in paras 5-7)
By Kim Eun-jung

SEOUL, June 20 (Yonhap) -- The prosecution and police reached a last-minute compromise Monday to end a dispute over investigative rights, agreeing to empower police to open investigations on their own under the broad supervision of prosecutors.

Justice Minister Lee Kwi-nam and National Police Agency chief Cho Hyun-oh reached the agreement on revising the criminal procedure code in negotiations mediated by Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik, presidential chief of staff Yim Tae-hee and other officials.

"Both organizations reached an agreement as they negotiated with determination to solve this matter," Prime Minister Kim said at a press briefing.

The agreement came after President Lee Myung-bak criticized both the prosecution and police last Friday for bickering over investigative rights.

Lee welcomed the agreement and praised his staff for brokering the deal.

"Cheong Wa Dae should try to mediate actively when opinions differ" between government agencies, Lee said during a meeting with senior presidential secretaries, according to presidential spokesman Park Jung-ha.

"Without having a passive attitude, Cheong Wa Dae should devote itself when it comes to nationally salient issues like the adjustment of investigative rights between police and the prosecution," Lee said.

The proposed revision calls for allowing police investigators to open and proceed with a criminal investigation on their own if there is sufficient suspicion of a crime, while allowing prosecutors to supervise the overall procedure.

Under the current law, prosecutors have the exclusive right to open an investigation.

Police have long tried to amend the law to obtain legal authority to begin probes because most criminal investigations are actually launched by police officers first and then sent to prosecutors for indictment.

Prosecutors, however, had stubbornly resisted such attempts, arguing that greater police power could raise the risks of human rights infringement.

"This revision bill is not about adjusting the right to investigation, but it is aimed at providing legal grounds for the reality of investigations," a government official said.

The government will submit the proposal to a special parliamentary committee on judicial reform and ask lawmakers to proceed with the revision of the law based on the agreement, officials noted.

In the parliamentary meeting held later Monday, ruling and opposition lawmakers unanimously passed the bill through the legislation and jucidiary committee ahead of putting it to a vote in the National Assembly's general session.

"As the government drew up an agreement, it is appropriate that (the parliament) respect such efforts," said Rep. Joo Seong-young of the ruling Grand National Party (GNP).

Regarding concerns over overlapping investigations by police and prosecutors, the justice minister vowed to define specific boundaries for each law enforcement agency through a ministerial ordinance.

For the bill to take effect, it needs parliamentary approval by a majority vote.


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