A subcommittee within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Thursday agreed to “actively pursue” a revision of the Juvenile Law to lower the minimum age at which juvenile offenders face criminal punishment from 16 to 14.
The panel, comprised of LDP lawmakers, met Thursday at party headquarters in Nagata-cho, Tokyo, and members mostly agreed on the need to pursue lowering the age, said the subcommittee’s chairman, Takeo Kawamura. Before reaching its conclusion, however, the subcommittee will hear the opinions of legal experts, psychiatrists and psychologists, he said. It will also examine records on rehabilitative measures for troubled youths to determine whether the current juvenile justice system is working, he said.
The subcommittee will also review ways to disclose information about juvenile cases to their victims. Currently, family court hearings, in which juvenile crime cases are handled, are closed to the public, including victims and their families. The subcommittee will draw up its final report by the end of the year, with a goal to have a bill submitted to the next regular session of the Diet, which starts in January.
Under the Criminal Law, minors aged 14 and older can be held responsible for criminal acts. But under the Juvenile Law, cases of juveniles — defined as people under 20 years of age — are assigned to family courts. Family court judges can send cases back to criminal court only when the suspects are 16 or older and when they find it appropriate.
Calls for correcting the gap between the two laws by lowering the criminally punishable age to 14 mounted in the wake of a series of murders and assaults on children by a Kobe boy last year. The boy was 14 years old when he committed the crimes and was spared penalties despite the seriousness of his crimes.
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