The Supreme Court has disclosed for the first time the conditions under which police can conduct sting operations, although scholars say these maneuvers should be outlawed because they actually cause a crime to occur.
Three conditions were revealed in a ruling dated Monday in the case of an Iranian who was found in illegal possession of cannabis in a sting operation at an Osaka hotel on March 2, 2000. Whether the sting was illegal was the focus of the trial.
Justice Tokuji Izumi, who presided over the case at the No. 1 Petty Bench, defined a sting as a method of uncovering a crime in action by investigators or collaborators in probes working at their request who conceal their identity and motives in order to induce the crime.
Such an operation is permitted when investigations concern drugs or other crimes where no victims are involved at the scene, when it is hard to uncover a perpetrator via a regular probe and when the suspect is believed to be intent on committing a crime.
The conditions are allowed for investigations under Article 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the court was told.
In the case subject to the ruling Monday, an investigator played the role of a buyer of cannabis introduced to the defendant by a collaborator.
The court rejected the Iranian’s appeal, finalizing a six-year prison term and 1 million yen fine.
In determining that a sting was allowed in the case, the judge said, “It was not possible to pin down the address of the defendant or the location where the cannabis was hidden even with tips from collaborators with an investigation.
“It was difficult to gather evidence and uncover the case by other investigative methods,” he said. “The defendant was already intent on selling cannabis and seeking a buyer.”
In 1953, the Supreme Court ruled stings were “not illegal” but did not specify under what circumstances they may be allowed.