A committee of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations has drafted a proposal that would reverse the group’s long-standing opposition to revising the Juvenile Law, federation officials said Tuesday.
If endorsed at its May 1 board meeting, the federation will formally present the proposal when it meets in late May with the Supreme Court and the Justice Ministry, the officials said.
The proposal, made by the Children’s Rights Committee, calls for a drastic overhaul of the current juvenile justice system and would allow prosecutors to participate in juvenile inquiry proceedings when facts in connection with crimes are fiercely disputed.
The proposal also recommends that the number of judges per case be increased from one, the current number, on a case-by-case basis.
Although the proposal has not changed the federation’s stance that the juvenile justice system is functional in most cases, it advocates revising the law as it pertains to cases in which juvenile suspects deny wrongdoing, which causes facts presented in such cases to be fiercely contested.
In addition, it urges creation of a system that mirrors the adult criminal justice system. This would ensure that juvenile suspects are accompanied by lawyers in family court proceedings. It would also change the way evidence is used by keeping unpresented evidence off limits to judges unless both prosecutors and suspects agree to its use.
Under the current system, all investigative records are turned over to family court judges before the inquiries begin. The judges, therefore, are likely to presume teen suspects guilty from the outset, resulting in false convictions, federation officials argue.
The federation’s possible new stance could accelerate moves to revise the law, which has come under intense public criticism following the arrest and family court handling of a 14-year-old boy who last May killed 11-year-old Jun Hase in Kobe and a 10-year-old girl earlier in the year.
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