A government advisory panel on Friday endorsed a plan by Justice Minister Daizo Nozawa to toughen criminal penalties to control the nation’s rising crime rate.

The Justice Ministry plans to submit bills to revise the Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedures to the Diet sometime in the fall after the Legislative Council submits its final recommendations to the ministry in September, ministry officials said.

If enacted, the amendments would constitute the largest-ever reform of the 97-year-old Penal Code, ministry officials said.

An outline of the revisions the minister submitted to the panel in February calls for extending the maximum prison term to 20 years from the present 15 years for convicts of a single crime.

The maximum imprisonment term for a criminal who commits multiple or repeated crimes would be expanded to 30 years from the current 20 years.

For a criminal whose penalty is mitigated from the death penalty or lifetime imprisonment for such reasons as mental impairment, the maximum term of imprisonment would be increased to 30 years from the present 15 years.

The minimum jail sentence would be extended to five years from three years for murder and to three years from two years for injury resulting in death.

The outline also urges the creation of a gang rape charge that would carry a penalty of four or more years in prison. Gang rape resulting in death would be punishable by a minimum of six years to a maximum of life imprisonment.

This recommendation comes after a series of highly publicized incidents of gang rape, including several Tokyo court cases last year in which the perpetrators were university students.

The outline also suggests that the statute of limitations be extended to 25 years from the present 15 years for crimes subject to capital punishment.

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