In a case in which a girl was sexually assaulted by a man, the Tokyo Public Prosecutors Office did not identify her by name in its written indictment in order to protect her. But it surfaced in mid-July that the Tokyo District Court demanded that the prosecution identify the victim, saying that it had failed to adequately identify facts related to the case.
If the court continues to insist on the prosecution identifying the victim, the prosecution may have no choice but to drop the indictment. The court should rethink its demand because it would be possible to determine what the man did even if the victim’s name is lacking and thus ensure a fair trial.
In the case, the man is accused of having taken the girl into a toilet in a park and sexually assaulted against her. They did not know each other. The prosecution accepted the request of the girl’s parents that her name be withheld in the written indictment to prevent the defendant from knowing her identity. The prosecution apparently thought that hiding the victim’s identity would help prevent the defendant from carrying out another assault on her in the future.
The Criminal Procedure Law requires public prosecutors to identify as much as possible in a written indictment the date and time, the place and the method related to the crime with which a defendant is charged. Mentioning the name of the victim is not required, although traditionally public prosecutors have included the name of the victim in a written indictment.
The Tokyo District Court made its demand from the viewpoint of protecting the defendant’s right to defend against accusations. The prosecution used the expression: “the child the defendant took into the toilet.” It could prevent a mixup on the part of the defendant by telling what kind of clothes the victim wore and other characteristics of her.
In a case like murder, a failure to mention the name of a victim will introduce critical uncertainties into facts constituting a crime. But attention must be paid to the fact that there are cases in which hiding the identity of a victim is advisable to protect him or her and at the same time, does not reduce the defendant’s right to defense.
The November 2012 case in Zushi, Kanagawa Prefecture, in which a married woman was stabbed to death by her former boyfriend in an apartment building and the man hanged himself in the same building, is believed to have been triggered by the police’s careless handling of information on the woman. The man had been suspected of having sent numerous threatening e-mails to the woman after she married another man. At that time, he did not know her new family name and address. But when the Kanagawa prefectural police served an arrest warrant to the man in June 2011 on suspicion of threatening the woman, they read out her new family name and address.
The Zushi case has led the police nationwide to hide the identity of a victim if the victim is a victim of threatening as in the Zushi case or is a minor involved in a sexual assault.
The Tokyo District Court should consider the fact that the prosecution’s decision not to identify the victim in the sexual assault case is in line with the police’s new policy, which is designed to protect the privacy of sex crime victims so they do not suffer revenge attacks. The court should uphold this policy.