As a counterproposal to calls from judicial authorities to revise the Juvenile Law, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations will propose giving youth crime suspects the right to have prosecutors participate in their family court hearings, it was learned Wednesday.

According to an early draft of the group’s proposals, still under debate by lawyer associations nationwide, juvenile suspects who are at least 16 years old will be able to choose between two systems — the current one, which does not include prosecutors in the proceedings, or one envisioned by the group that would allows prosecutors to participate under certain conditions.

Prosecutors participating in the hearings should specialize in juvenile cases, the draft says. In exchange for allowing prosecutors into the hearings, juvenile suspects will be guaranteed due process, including the right to counter-argue and restrictions on additional investigations deemed disadvantageous to the accused after hearings start, it adds.

The draft also advocates extending the maximum detention period for youths from the current four weeks to up to eight weeks to “ensure their right to dispute (prosecutors’ arguments),” a member of the group pushing for the law reform said. But details of the group’s proposals, including the specific age of defendants whose hearings prosecutors will be allowed to attend and the maximum length of detention, are still subject to change because lawyers are at odds over allowing prosecutors in family court proceedings.

The federation had long been opposed to letting prosecutors participate in the hearings on the grounds that it would put the rights of juveniles at risk. The presence of prosecutors at family court proceedings would undermine the purpose of the Juvenile Law to rehabilitate, rather than punish, minors who have committed crimes, it had argued. But in May the group announced its intention to propose allowing prosecutors to participate in juvenile hearings, reversing its long-standing opposition to changing the 49-year-old Juvenile Law.

The group’s new stance came amid public controversy over the law following the arrest and family court handling of a 14-year-old junior high school student who killed and beheaded an 11-year-old boy and killed a 10-year-old girl in Kobe last year.

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