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Justice Minister Mayumi Moriyama said Thursday the ministry may revise the Reformatory Law so that children under 13 who commit crimes can be sent to juvenile reformatories.

“We would like to consider (revising the law) to admit minors under 13 to reformatories and give them correctional education in light of its effects and influence on such minors,” Moriyama told a House of Councilors committee on legal affairs.

Juvenile reformatories only admit minors aged 14 or older.

On July 9, a 12-year-old junior high school student in Nagasaki was taken into custody on suspicion of abducting and killing a 4-year-old boy.

Committee member Satsuki Eda, a senior in the Democratic Party of Japan and a former judge, asked Moriyama if the Justice Ministry will consider, for example, changing the system to apply functions of a medical reformatory to people aged 13 and under.

Under the Penal Code, individuals under age 14 suspected of committing crimes cannot be held criminally responsible.

“We will investigate the facts concerning the case and carefully study the background of the case or the reasons for the crime,” she said. “We will also analyze other cases involving minors.”

If a family court decides to place such children under observation and protection, they are sent to juvenile institutions and stay there for up to four weeks.

For those aged 14 and older, a family court decides whether to place them on probation or send them to a reformatory or juvenile self-support facility and children’s institution.

Those aged between 14 and 26 suffering severe physical or psychological damage are sent to medical reformatories.

Konoike unrepentant

State minister Yoshitada Konoike said Thursday he will not retract his comments last Friday that the parents of a 12-year-old boy suspected of murdering a child in Nagasaki should be dragged through the streets and beheaded.

“What has been once said has been taped and cannot be retracted,” Konoike said at a meeting of the House of Representatives special committee on juvenile affairs.

Konoike, the state minister for deregulation zones and disaster management, sparked a firestorm of criticism with his July 11 comments.

He made the remarks in response to questions from reporters on how the government should prevent further crimes committed by juveniles.

At the committee meeting, Konoike said the way he expressed himself was inappropriate but implied his thoughts on the matter remain unchanged.

“I have apologized for the trouble I have caused in using inappropriate words and examples,” Konoike said. “I will watch what I say in the future.”

He was responding to a question from Yoko Komiyama, a member of the Democratic Party of Japan, who asked for a retraction of the comments and an apology. Konoike is a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Konoike reiterated his view that the parents of the suspect should make some kind of apology.

“If the parents cannot show their faces, they should at least write a message or make a comment,” he said.

Police took the junior high school student into custody July 9 on suspicion of pushing Shun Tanemoto, 4, to his death from the roof of a multistory parking garage on July 1.

Because the youth is under 14, he is exempted by law from facing criminal charges.