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Children aged 14 and 15 sentenced to jail terms under the revised Juvenile Law will be able to complete their compulsory education before starting their sentences, the Justice Ministry said Friday.

The ministry included the education rules in an administrative ordinance before the law revision takes effect April 1. The revision lowers the minimum age for punishment by a criminal court from 16 to 14. Most children attending junior high school, the final three years of compulsory education, are between 12 and 15.

The ministry rule says teenage prisoners who have not finished compulsory education and those who require special treatment either physically or mentally will spend time in reformatories before entering juvenile prisons.

Others will be sent to reformatories deemed to offer better rehabilitation than prisons, the officials said.

But the new plan will not cover youths turning 16 within three months after a final court ruling is handed down, nor will it apply to children who have previously run away from detention facilities.

The officials also said a separate ministry rule will require reformatory officials to encourage parents and guardians of young prisoners to visit and correspond with the youths.

The current Juvenile Law does not allow family courts to send suspects aged 14 and 15 to prosecutors, even if they are suspected of involvement in murder or other serious crimes.

It is not uncommon for family courts to send even 16-year-olds suspected of committing serious crimes to reformatories instead of criminal courts.

A string of heinous crimes committed by youths jolted the nation last year. In most cases, family courts sent the suspects to reformatories, explaining in rulings that the teens needed psychological treatment or that rehabilitation was a priority.

The suspects included a 17-year-old who hijacked an intercity bus in May in Fukuoka Prefecture and allegedly fatally stabbed a passenger before police subdued him hours later.

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