Loath to call a crime a crime?

I was greatly disappointed by the Aug. 18 editorial “Spare the rod at school.” Despite the details on the use of corporal/physical punishment in Japanese schools, the editorial board’s opinion on solving this serious problem and its apparent belief that the word “punishment” is inappropriate and that a more accurate description would be “abuse” or “harassment,” the editorial failed to use the word “criminal.”

I am not a lawyer, but I have enough knowledge of the law to know that acts of physical or mental abuse, or harassment of any kind, are listed on the statute books of this country as crimes. Thus it follows that those who commit such acts are criminals. The Oxford English Dictionary clearly and unambiguously defines “criminal” as a person guilty of a crime and the word “crime” as an offense punishable by law.

Not once does the editorial tell me that to physically assault a citizen (children are said to be citizens and so they are!) is a crime in Japan and is thus punishable by the law. It wandered around this most serious subject matter in a typically Japanese way without telling me in simple terms that those who abuse, harass or assault the citizens of this country — and, indeed, noncitizens, too! — are committing criminal acts

In the United Kingdom at present, there is no such problem. The authorities keep a watchful eye out for such criminals, wherever they are to be found — in the schools, the hospitals, the streets, the offices and factories, and even in old people’s homes.

Yes, mistakes are still made and some crimes take some time to be detected, but when they are, the full weight of the law descends upon the individuals. U.K. authorities are extremely cognizant of their public responsibility to seek out and prosecute these criminals. I do not paint a rosy picture, but I do know that “something” is being done in the U.K. and that the steps taken and being taken are generally successful.

Why, then, is Japan so woefully negligent in prosecuting these criminals? Past events have shown us that the evidence of their despicable acts is easy to see by parents, police, public prosecutors and others, yet rarely do we hear of them being arrested, charged and brought before the Japanese courts. These criminals are the teachers, the sport coaches, the school and office bullies, and even the police themselves on occasion.

This tardiness or complete failure by Japanese authorities to act is the greatest reason for the continuing proliferation of acts of physical and/or mental violence, and they should be ashamed of their negligence. The opinions in the editorial, though well meant, miss the mark and simply reiterate what I already know. What a missed opportunity!

paul gaysford
tokyo

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.