The government plans to abandon for now an amendment to the age cap under juvenile law that would lower the age when individuals can be tried as adults from 20 years old to 18, sources have said.
The likely scrapping of the plan came about because members of the Legislative Council — an advisory body to the justice minister — remain divided on the issue, the sources said.
Under current Japanese law, all criminal offenders aged between 14 and 19 years old are sent to family courts in principle, with courses of action involving their cases, such as whether to allow probation or whether to send them to juvenile prison or prosecutors, being decided at a later date. They can face trial similarly as adult offenders if they are indicted after their cases are sent to prosecutors.
In February 2017 the council was asked to study the advisability of lowering the age cap in line with changes in the voting age and the age of attaining adulthood.
The voting age has already been lowered to 18 from 20, while the age of adulthood will be cut, also to 18 from 20, in April 2022.
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations and others strongly oppose the proposed cut to the age range covered by the juvenile law, citing the possible adverse effects it could have on the rehabilitation of offenders aged 18 and 19.
Against this background, the secretariat of the Justice Ministry presented two proposals during a meeting of the council’s juvenile law subcommittee last month in a bid to win support from opponents, but it failed to get enough backers.
Kazuo Kitagawa, a senior official of Komeito, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s coalition partner, told a news conference on Wednesday that it “would likely be impossible” to submit legislation to revise the law during the current Diet session.