Privacy sought for victim in rape trial

AOMORI (Kyodo) With the newly introduced lay judge system set to deal with its first sex crime in September, a women’s group supporting a burglary-rape victim petitioned the Aomori District Court Thursday to ensure her privacy is completely protected.

Slated to open Sept. 2, the trial will be the first dealing with a sex crime under the new criminal trial system involving randomly selected citizen judges as well as professional judges.

The nonprofit group Women’s Net Aomori asked in a written petition that no residents of the area in which the victim lives be listed as candidates for lay judges in the case, and that the use of photos in the trial be limited as they might remind the woman of the incident.

“We are opposed to making sexual crimes subject to lay judge trials in the first place, but now that it has been decided, we seek for the utmost consideration to be paid (to the victim),” group leader Fumiko Shikanai said in the petition.

The court said it will try its best to keep personal information private in the process of selecting lay judges by initially disclosing only a limited number of the victim’s details, such as her age, to candidates.

If some candidates have an inkling of who the victim might be, they would be questioned by the presiding judge in one-on-one interviews and asked to divulge the name they have in mind, the court said.

Lay judges will have confidentiality obligations, but candidates who end up not being selected will not be punished even if they tell a third person about the case.