The Japan Federation of Bar Associations on May 1 decided to propose allowing prosecutors to participate in juvenile inquiry proceedings under certain conditions, changing its long-standing opposition to prosecutors’ presence in family courts.
The federation’s board of directors endorsed a set of proposals made by a committee that had earlier called for a drastic overhaul of the current juvenile justice system. The federation will present its proposals when it meets with the Supreme Court and the Justice Ministry May 26, the officials said.
The federation’s new stance came amid a public controversy over whether the 49-year-old law should be revised to make it more pertinent to handle new juvenile crime trends. The law drew heavy public criticism following the arrest of a 14-year-old boy who in May killed 11-year-old Jun Hase in Kobe, and his case’s consequent handling by a family court .
The proposal would allow prosecutors’ participation under a new system, but only when suspects deny any wrongdoing, which often causes the facts in connection with the crime to be fiercely disputed. Under such a system, juvenile suspects would be guaranteed due process, and investigative records would be off limits to judges prior to the inquiries, officials said.
The federation also decided to agree to the Supreme Court’s recommendation to increase the number of judges per case from one to three on a case-by-case basis. The federation, however, remains firmly opposed to giving prosecutors the right to appeal family court rulings, in contrast to a proposal made by the top court in January.
The federation also rejected the top court’s proposal to extend the detention period for juvenile suspects from the current 28 days.
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