Members of a Justice Ministry committee met in Tokyo on Tuesday to start discussing how the Juvenile Law could be changed to improve the process of determining the guilt or innocence of youth suspects.

The Juvenile Law Committee was convened for the first time in 22 years, as the last meeting was thrown into turmoil when members representing the bar opposed changes to the law and withdrew from the panel in protest.

In the meeting Tuesday, Justice Minister Kokichi Shimoinaba reiterated his request to have discussions on the law’s revisions wrapped up by November, so the ministry can submit a bill based on the committee’s recommendations to the next regular Diet session, starting in January 1999. The committee’s 20 voting members consist of five scholars, three lawyers, two judges, two prosecutors, a newspaper editor and a singer, as well as six officials from related government bureaus, including the chiefs of the Justice Ministry’s Criminal Affairs Bureau and the Supreme Court’s Family Bureau.

Included on the committee’s agenda are issues of whether to let prosecutors participate in juvenile hearings; whether to increase the number of judges per case from just one; and whether to expand the maximum detention period for youth suspects from the current four weeks.

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