Taipei, March 4 (CNA) The Cabinet on Thursday approved a draft amendment bill that seeks to remove the limit on mandatory psychiatric treatment for convicted offenders deemed to be mentally ill.
Under the existing law, the courts can mandate no more than five years of psychiatric treatment for mentally ill felons.
According to Cabinet spokesman Lo Ping-cheng, the draft amendment to the Criminal Code will allow for extensions beyond five years, for as long as the courts deem it necessary, based on medical advice.
To protect the human rights of mentally ill offenders, an annual psychiatric evaluation will be required during extended treatment beyond five years, and the extensions granted by the court may not exceed three years each time, Lo said.
After 10 years of psychiatric treatment, however, the review periods will be reduced to nine months each time, he said.
During the period of court-ordered psychiatric treatment, the offenders will be housed at regular hospitals or mental health centers, Lo said. In some cases, they may be given into the care of relatives or charity groups, he added.
According to Minister Without Portfolio Lin Wan-i, the government is also in the process of building special mental health facilities, where forensic psychiatric patients can be securely housed while receiving treatment.
The issue came to the fore after a schizophrenic offender, who had fatally stabbed a railway police officer in 2019, was sentenced last month to 17 years in prison, with five years of mandatory psychiatric treatment.
The sentence was handed down by the Taiwan High Court in an appeal case that followed the man's acquittal of murder charges in the lower court, on grounds of diminished responsibility.
Amid ongoing public debates over the case and the related issues, Lin said Taiwan needs to find better ways to handle mentally ill felons, so that they can be treated and rehabilitated.