• Kyodo


The Nagoya Family Court decided Wednesday to send three teenage boys to a juvenile reformatory for the murder-robbery of a male employee of a juvenile rehabilitation facility in Kasugai, Aichi Prefecture.

Presiding Judge Hidenori Kan opted to send the three boys, two of them aged 15 and the other 14, to a reformatory to give them educational courses and guidance for at least five years instead of putting them on criminal trial, as requested by prosecutors.

“We considered sending them back to prosecutors, but all three of them are very immature, and we are afraid they may not fully grow as human beings if long-term criminal punishment is imposed on them,” Kan said.

“What the boys need is treatment by experts, such as individual counseling, and education. Through treatment and education, we can expect them to deepen their feelings of apology and atonement and become rehabilitated as members of society.”

The three teens and another boy, 12, strangled Shigemasa Morino, 34, when he tried to stop a fight the four boys staged late Oct. 3 at Aichi Gakuen, a prefectural juvenile rehabilitation facility.

They stole Morino’s wallet, containing 50,000 yen in cash, and another 16,000 yen from the bag of another employee before escaping. They were soon found at a nearby convenience store, and the three older boys were placed under arrest on Oct. 4.

In their first trial sessions in early November, the teens admitted committing the acts.

The Juvenile Law was revised in April 2001 to allow a family court judge to decide whether a suspect aged between 14 and 19 facing serious charges should stand criminal trial. The law had previously been applicable to minors aged 16 and over.

However, there has not yet been a case in which a juvenile under 16 has been sent to prosecutors. Kan’s decision, despite the gravity of the boys’ actions, is expected to influence family courts to follow suit in similar cases.

While lawyers promoting children’s rights welcomed the decision as “appropriate,” the victim’s family disagreed.

“The court’s decision was regrettable, but I can do nothing about it,” Morino’s 56-year-old mother Hiroko told reporters.

A former Kyoto Family Court judge, Yoshitada Miyoshi, said he believes the boys should have been sent back to prosecutors due to the gravity of the case.

But Hajime Tada, a lawyer for one of the boys, said he believes the court’s decision was appropriate, adding that he supports the judge’s view that the boys need to spend at least five years at the reformatory “to rehabilitate.”

Tada said the boys appear willing to accept the court decision.

Wednesday’s hearing was conducted behind closed doors in accordance with the Juvenile Law, with each of the boys, accompanied by a court officer, a lawyer and a guardian, facing Kan and two other judges. News media are not allowed to disclose the names of offenders under 20.

The Nagoya Family Court decided in late October to send the 12-year-old boy to another juvenile rehabilitation facility.

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