Opinion on handling certain problems in voluntary surrender and meritorious service

An Opinion on handling certain problems in voluntary surrender and meritorious service (原文) has been issued yesterday by the Supreme People’s Court. The Opinion makes further specifications on a 1998 judicial interpretation (原文), of articles 68 and 69 of the Criminal Law.

Voluntary surrender is constituted if a suspect hands himself in and confesses his crimes. Meritorious service is acknowledged if a suspect exposes other people's crimes or provides clues about other cases. Either of these circumstances allows a lighter sentence.

This used to be the case at least, because the Opinion seems to have turned statutory circumstances into discretionary ones. In so-called heinous cases and organized crime cases judges will enjoy a greater discretion to choose whether to apply article 68 and 69 or not.

Here's a rough translation of the Opinion, paragraph 8:
“If the conditions of voluntary surrender or meritorious service exist, but the circumstances of a crime are particularly heinous, the outcome of a crime is particularly severe, the defendant’s subjective viciousness and personal dangerousness are great, or if before committing a crime preparations to voluntary surrender or meritorious service were made to evade the law and escape punishment, a lenient punishment may not be given.
[Concerning] ringleaders of criminal groups or principal offenders in joint crimes who expose, accuse or help judicial organs arrest accomplices who played a secondary role in the same crime, lenient punishment should be severely controlled. If a lesser punisment could cause an imbalance in the sentencing of the entire case, a lesser punishment is not given. If an equally serious offender in a different case was exposed, accused, or arrested through one’s help to judicial organs, a lenient punishment is given according to the law.
[Concerning] ordinary members of criminal groups and accomplices in joint crimes who perform meritorious service, the policy of lenient sentencing according to the law should be followed, particularly if they help to arrest ringleaders or principal offenders

This attempt to strike the proverbial balance between leniency and severity comes one year after less stringent rules were made in the case of public officials suspected of corruption. The first condition of voluntary surrender - handing oneself in to investigators - does not apply to officials, who can be punished more leniently on the sole ground that they confessed to their crime.
Aside from this, the Opinion outlines in greater detail the circumstances in which surrender can take place, introduces a procedure to verify information and clues provided by criminal suspects, and nullifies the provision of clues obtained illegally.