Court role urged for crime victims

Kyodo News

Advisers to the justice minister proposed Tuesday that crime victims or their family members be allowed to make statements in court and question defendants and witnesses.

The Justice Ministry plans to submit a bill to revise the criminal procedure law during the current Diet session after receiving a report from the Legislative Council advisory panel in February.

The revision is expected to draw criticism from lawyers and academics worried that the practice would pose problems for defense attorneys.

A 2000 revision of the criminal procedure law allows victims or family members of people who have been killed to tell the court their feelings about the crime.

The proposal would expand what people are allowed to say to include commenting on what happened and rebutting statements from the defense, delving into such topics as intention, and to ask judges to hand down different penalties than those requested by prosecutors.

The panel said the changes should be introduced in criminal trials in which the victims were killed or physically injured and prosecutors would have to agree to allow the victims or their families to speak.

The panel also proposed that victims or their families be given access to court documents and be allowed to copy them.