Judiciary safeguards against records access
Information on offenses committed by juveniles restricted to defend privacy
Top judiciary bodies in China have issued new measures for sealing up the criminal records of minors to strengthen the special protections for the group and focus more on rehabilitation.
Jointly issued by the Supreme People's Court, the Supreme People's Procuratorate, the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Justice, the measures could effectively solve problems related to inadvertent information disclosure caused by improper management of a minor's criminal and related records. This, in turn, can better protect a minor's return to society.
The measures came into effect on Monday. They will strictly implement the minor criminal records sealing system mentioned in the Criminal Procedure Law, and the provisions of protecting minors' privacy and information mentioned in the Law on the Protection of Minors, and Law on the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency.
According to a statement issued by the four departments, the sealing system was added to the Criminal Procedure Law in 2012, but many problems appeared during implementation.
Surveys conducted by judicial organs last year found that most provinces had cases where minor criminal records had failed to be sealed as required or that a minor's information leaked due to an illegal inquiry, resulting in discrimination toward the minors in attending examinations, admission to schools, employment and life in general. Many minors involved have had to lodge petitions to protect their rights.
According to judicial statistics, from April 2017 to April 2022, a total of 80,855 juvenile delinquents had their prosecutions dropped and 157,962 were sentenced to imprisonment of fewer than five years.
If these minors are faced with difficulties in employment or going to school because of leaked criminal records, they may commit crimes again, and the effort to educate and rehabilitate them would be in vain, the statement said.
"In practice, we should adhere to the principle of balancing justice with mercy when dealing with the crimes of minors. For those who commit crimes as minors, we should focus on education and rehabilitation. Minors who are suspected of serious crimes should be arrested and prosecuted according to the law. If their sentence exceeds five years, then their criminal records will not be sealed," said an official with the SPP.
Records for minors sentenced to imprisonment for less than five years, or who were exempted from criminal punishment or prosecution, will have the records of compulsory criminal measures against them sealed.
Minors whose records are sealed shall be exempted from the obligation to report their criminal records when they join the army or gain employment, but when a minor is under investigation on suspicion of committing another crime, the minor shall voluntarily and truthfully confess any criminal record.
Judicial organs that need to inquire about criminal records in handling cases, or other departments needing to inquire about sealed records, should submit a written application to the custodial authority, listing their reasons, basis and scope of use.
Entities or individuals who have acquired sealed information for work reasons should not disclose the name, domicile or photo of the minor or any other information that may infer the identity of the minor.