Cabinet approves bill to increase penalties for negligence causing death

04/22/2021 04:26 PM
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A section of the Taroko Express train that crashed on April 2. The incident prompted the Cabinet to introduce the draft bill. CNA file photo
A section of the Taroko Express train that crashed on April 2. The incident prompted the Cabinet to introduce the draft bill. CNA file photo

Taipei, April 22 (CNA) The Executive Yuan on Thursday approved a draft amendment bill that seeks to impose harsher penalties on people convicted of negligence causing death and damaging an occupied vehicle.

The bill will now be sent to the Judicial Yuan, which is expected to co-sign it, and then to the Legislative Yuan, where legislators will decide whether to pass the amendments into law.

Commenting on the bill Thursday, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said that punishments laid down by law must be proportionate to the crimes committed.

Penalties should also be in keeping with the times, Su said, noting that the existing law on damaging an occupied vehicle was enacted when vehicles were not as fast and large as they are now.

The penalties for negligence causing death and damaging an occupied vehicle have come under scrutiny in the wake of the Taroko Express train crash on April 2, in which 49 people died and at least 200 were injured.

The train crash, the deadliest in Taiwan in seven decades, occurred when a crane truck tumbled down a steep incline and onto the rail near the entrance to a tunnel in Hualien County, shortly before the express train approached.

According to the Hualien District Prosecutors Office, the truck driver and owner Lee Yi-hsiang (李義祥) was working on a slope stabilization project near the tracks at the time, and the truck got stuck on the hillside as he was trying to make a turn.

Using an excavator, Lee tried to hoist the truck back up the slope, but the strap he was using broke, and the truck rolled down onto the train track, prosecutors said.

Just over a minute later, the Taroko Express train, carrying nearly 500 people, slammed into the truck, and the first five carriages derailed and crumpled in the tunnel, prosecutors said.

Following the crash, Lee, who was a sub-contractor on the government maintenance project in the area, was arrested and charged with negligence causing death, while three other people involved in the project were also indicted on the same charge, according to the Prosecutors Office.

Under Taiwan's current law, the maximum penalty for conviction on that charge is five years in prison or a fine of NT$500,000 (US$17,615).

Amid criticism of the law as being too lenient, the Cabinet introduced the draft bill that allows for a prison sentence of one to seven years in cases of serious offenses on the charge of negligence causing death.

In addition, in the cases where the serious offense results in the death of three or more people, the punishment will be three to 10 years in prison, according to the draft bill.

It also contains amendments pertaining to the punishment for overturning or damaging an occupied train, car, aircraft, or other vehicles and vessels.

Currently, those convicted of intentionally committing a crime of this nature are sentenced to five years to life, while in cases of negligence the maximum sentence is three years and a fine of up to NT$300,000.

Under the Cabinet's draft bill, if an intentional offense results in death, the punishment will be 10 years to life in prison. If it results in injury, the sentence will be seven years to life.

In cases where the vehicle damage was caused due to negligence, and it is ruled as a serious offense, the maximum fine will be five years in prison and a fine of up to NT$500,000, according to the draft bill.

(By Wen Kuei-hsiang, Lai Yu-chen and Chiang Yi-ching)

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