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Prosecutor involvement in investigating serious youth crimes will increase from April in an effort to better serve victims and cope with tougher laws against offenders, government officials said Saturday.

The Justice Ministry and the Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office said they are planning to let prosecutors directly investigate cases involving juveniles instead of merely examining papers sent to them by police.

Prosecutors will question suspects, their parents, victims and other concerned people in connection with crimes such as murder, robbery, rape, illegal confinement and inflicting injuries resulting in death, the officials said.

The crimes that prosecutors are expected to investigate directly are expected to be those in which family courts are in principle required to send suspects aged 16 or older to public prosecutors for indictment in district courts. The current practice of handling young offenders is based on a judge’s discretion.

The plan, to be discussed during this month’s extraordinary Diet session, also allows family courts to let prosecutors attend court proceedings.

Currently, prosecutors do not conduct investigations into all youth crimes as family courts send only a fraction of juvenile cases annually to them for indictment.

For crimes that do not involve murder or other serious offenses, prosecutors check reports and depositions submitted by police, or simply question suspects and offer family courts their opinions on punishments.

According to statistics compiled by prosecutors, police sent 279,774 youths to district public prosecutor’s offices across Japan last year.

Of the figure, 277,046 were sent to family courts, and 10,169 of those, or about 4 percent, were returned to prosecutors for indictment in district courts.

A senior Justice Ministry official said strengthened prosecutor investigations are also aimed at reflecting the voices of victims in family court proceedings, which are closed to the public.

“We have received many opinions that the fact-finding process in family court hearings is insufficient. We have to review investigation processes, which have largely depended on police and family courts,” the official said.

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