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While controversy continues to rage over the Juvenile Law, the Justice Ministry said July 25 that it will not immediately try to revamp the law.

Akio Harada, chief of the ministry’s criminal affairs bureau, told reporters that the ministry’s position is that minors involved in crimes should be rehabilitated instead of being punished and this will not change immediately. Since the shocking arrest of a 15-year-old boy for alleged murder and assault in Kobe, questions have been raised as to whether the law can deal with the rising number of juvenile crimes.

Under the law, those who committed heinous crimes between the ages of 14 and 19 can be held responsible, but those under 16 cannot be subject to criminal punishment. If convicted of such crimes, 14- and 15-year-olds are sent to a juvenile correction center for up to two years.

The suspect in the Kobe killings was sent to the Kobe Family Court on July 25 after being questioned by prosecutors at a local police station for 28 days. The revelation that the suspect in the slaying and beheading of 11-year-old Jun Hase was a 14-year-old set off calls for a prompt revision of the law’s provision concerning those younger than 16, Harada said.

But he added the controversy has “calmed down” as the unique nature of the case has become more widely understood. He said his bureau will listen to comments from the public concerning the handling of the case.

But Takeshi Tsuchimoto, a professor specializing in the Criminal Code at Tsukuba University, pointed to flaws in the current law. “Given the abnormality of the crime, the boy will probably be sent to a medical correction center,” Tsuchimoto said. “The realm of criminal punishment should be expanded (to include minors) since it is doubtful he will be rehabilitated in a couple of years.”

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