State ordered to compensate inmate

Kyodo

The Hiroshima District Court on Tuesday ordered the state to pay 150,000 yen to a former inmate of Hiroshima Prison who was forced to have meetings with his lawyer in the presence of a prison official.

In handing down the ruling, presiding Judge Akio Nose said that the former inmate’s rights had been violated, including the right to speak privately with his lawyer.

The plaintiff, 54, had sought 3.4 million yen in compensation, saying that he did not get a fair trial as guaranteed under the Constitution and International Covenants on Human Rights.

Judge Nose ruled that having a prison official present during the meetings between the inmate and his lawyer was an abuse of the prison chief’s authority, saying, “There was no need for officials to be present during the meeting from the viewpoint of preventing flight.”

The inmate had been sentenced to a 10-month prison sentence for fraud in 1997.

In April 1998, he met with his lawyer to discuss a health condition that had worsened when he was formally reprimanded at Hiroshima Detention House.

An official from the prison was present at the meeting and took notes of the conversation.

In September of that year, the same official was also present when he met with his lawyer after filing the damages lawsuit.

The man argued there was no need for the agent to be present during that meeting and such psychological pressure could have obstructed justice.

The state had argued that laws such as the Prison Law dictate that officials must be present at meetings involving inmates who are not defendants in criminal cases.

It added that the prison official was not there to collect information relevant to the damages lawsuit.