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Revised criminal law puts leash on prosecutors

New regulations will put in place stricter requirements for search warrants issued in criminal investigations to prevent personal and irrelevant information from being leaked by prosecutors, the Supreme Court said Thursday.

Taking effect this year, the revised Criminal Procedure Law will include a new article pertaining to the seizure of electronic storage devices, designed to prevent irrelevant information from being seized by unrestrained prosecutors.

According to the new provision, seizures of storage devices must be accompanied with an agreement over the parameters within the devices that designate where the pertinent information is stored.

Prosecutors will then have to copy segments of the hard drive that only contain case-relevant information, or print out information, rather than seizing the entire device.

However, in the event parameters within the device cannot be determined, the entire device and its contents will be seized for the investigation. Supreme Court officials were unable to specify when such indiscriminate seizure would take place, opening the possibility of loopholes and further abuse by prosecutors.

According to court officials, the new article will require specific information sought in a seizure to be stated beforehand, in a bid to prevent sensitive information from being indiscriminately disclosed and extracted.

“This will compel more care in prosecutors’ searches and confiscations,” a Supreme Court official said.

This comes after claims that the prosecutors’ practice of seizing entire hard drives and servers has led to the disclosure of personal information and company secrets.

“The law is also expected to protect human rights and privacy as well as corporate management rights,” said the official.

The revision will also require prosecutors to show concrete evidence before conducting raids.

It states that prosecutors need to demonstrate “a situation where the perpetrator might confess his guilt” and the “need to establish the relevance with the current investigation.”

Until last year a search warrant was issued as long as prosecutors had established a “need,” leaving officials largely unchallenged to take advantage of vague definitions.

The clause stated that “a seizure can be conducted if it is needed for the criminal investigation.”

By Robert Lee