Taiwan said Wednesday it plans to let members of the public join judges on the bench at trials, question witnesses and affect sentencing as part of judicial reforms after a string of disputed rulings.
But the island, which does not currently carry out jury trials, has no immediate plans to move further towards a US-style jury system, an official at the Judicial Yuan - the island's top judicial authority, said.
The Judicial Yuan said Wednesday it would introduce a bill to allow five people to accompany a panel of three judges in court proceedings as early as next year, aiming to help restore public confidence in the courts.
The observers will be able to examine the evidence, debate and comment on cases, and question defendants and witnesses with the presiding judge's consent, it said in a statement.
The members of the public could have a say in sentencing decisions, but judges will be responsible for the final verdict.
They will mainly sit on major cases which could lead to capital punishment or life imprisonment.
Pressure for judicial reforms has intensified in Taiwan after a recent spate of controversial rulings involving the sexual assault of children.
The Judicial Yuan "hopes to increase the people's faith in the judiciary by allowing them to participate in the trials," the statement said.
President Ma Ying-jeou was forced to apologise earlier this year after nominating to the constitutional court a judge who had acquitted a child molester on the grounds that the three-year-old victim had not opposed the act.
The much-criticised ruling and two other, similar cases triggered mass street protests and prompted parliament to tighten laws on child sex abuse.
The cases dealt another blow to the island's judicial system, which had already been rocked by corruption scandals implicating several top judges.
Last month, three senior judges were sentenced to up to 20 years in prison for taking bribes from defendants in exchange for not guilty verdicts.