A group of people whose children died at the hands of juveniles submitted a written request Thursday to Justice Minister Okiharu Yasuoka, urging the state to improve the rights of crime victims and their relatives under the Juvenile Law.
At a half-hour meeting with Yasuoka at the ministry, 10 representatives of the national society of juvenile crime victims asked the government to review the law, because its spirit favors the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders at the expense of the victims’ human rights.
As their main demand, the parents want family courts to submit the cases of all juvenile offenders involved in fatal crimes to prosecutors for a standard trial, regardless of their age.
Under the current version of the law, such cases are mainly handled in a family court, which protects the identity of the juvenile and bans the presence of the victim, the victim’s relatives and prosecutors in court.
In a standard trial, however, none of these restrictions are in place and the proceedings are open.
In a family court, the decision to send a juvenile case to prosecutors is left to the discretion of one family court judge per case, without the input of prosecutors, other judges, the victims or their relatives.
The legislation introduced at the current Diet session aims to toughen the Juvenile Law by lowering the age at which juveniles can be held criminally responsible and prosecutors can be present at family court trials on a case-by-case basis.
However, the representatives said that this will be inadequate because implementation of the new system would still depend greatly on the closed-door procedures of the family court system.
Among their other demands, the parents asked that victims and their relatives also be allowed to attend and participate in family court trials and be allowed to state their opinions in court. They also requested unrestricted access to the records of trials in which they are involved.
Some people oppose the new, tougher bill, but some of the group’s members said there are juvenile offenders who commit atrocious crimes and who should be punished and made to atone for their actions like adults.
The members cited cases in which offenders committed their crimes with the full knowledge that they would be protected from long prison terms and public scrutiny by the present legislation.
Emphasizing that the group is not merely seeking to toughen the law, Ruriko Take, a representative, told Yasuoka: “The most important thing is that even juveniles, as human beings, should be held responsible for what they have done.”
“This (notion) has been badly lacking, but should be the starting point for the sound nurturing of juveniles — a stated intention of the Juvenile Law.”
Teen held for strangling
TOTTORI (Kyodo) A 17-year-old high school student from Tottori Prefecture has been arrested on suspicion of strangling his 40-year-old mother after a quarrel, police said. Alerted by a call from the boy’s sister at around 6:40 p.m. Wednesday, an ambulance rushed to the home in Akasaki and took her to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead about an hour later.
Marks on her neck and accounts by family members led police to believe her son, a high school junior, had strangled her. Police quoted the boy as saying he hit and kicked her before strangling her in a fit of anger because he was told to leave the house after a quarrel over his allowance.
The boy, whose identity was withheld because he is a minor, lived with his mother and two sisters at the house.
The incident shook the normally quiet community on the Sea of Japan coast. The house is located some 1 km north of Akasaki Station on the JR Sanin Line.
According to local residents, the family moved in about three years ago but rarely contacted neighbors.
“I can’t believe such a fine mother could be killed,” said a 50-year-old woman who lives nearby. The victim reportedly took care of the three kids on her own, working at a marine product processing plant during the day and at a nearby restaurant at night.
One of the residents said the boy “appeared normal,” while others said they had occasionally overheard angry voices coming from the house.
The group said it would also submit the request to the opposition camp, which is currently boycotting all Diet proceedings, and to the ruling coalition’s project team on revising the law.
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