Cops plan internal monitors of grillings

Kyodo News

The National Police Agency plans to launch a new system as early as fiscal 2008 to monitor police questioning of suspects in an effort to ensure transparency, NPA officials said Thursday.

The NPA plans to draw up guidelines for the plan by the end of the year, the officials said, as public trust in police questioning tactics has been damaged amid a series of acquittals involving people who were forced to confess to crimes they didn’t commit.

The plan calls for officers from noninvestigative divisions to be involved in the questioning process, a move that represents a “major turning point for the police,” a senior NPA official said.

Under the NPA plan, prefectural police forces will set up a monitoring body with members other than from the investigative division — possibly from the administration division — to carry out the monitoring, according to the officials.

The NPA will compile guidelines based on four points sought Thursday by the government’s National Public Safety Commission.

The commission asked police to strengthen the monitoring of and keep set hours for questioning, adopt measures to ensure questioning is conducted in an appropriate manner and increase the discipline of the people involved in criminal investigations.

Under the plan, police officers will be required to tell the monitoring body the times when a suspect enters and exits a detention room to ensure suspects will not be questioned late at night.

Suspects would be able to submit complaints about questioning procedures to the body. The body could also send staff into the interrogation rooms during questioning.

In October, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations called for a law that requires police to make transparent the entire process of questioning suspects by taping sessions, which would allow courts to deny evidence if such a procedure is not followed.

The Toyama District Court on Oct. 10 acquitted a man in a retrial after he served about two years in prison in a wrongful conviction of rape and attempted rape. The court discredited the man’s confessions, noting the crimes were committed by another person.

The man, Hiroshi Yanagihara, was not pleased about the ruling, saying the court had failed to clarify what went wrong in the police investigation that led to the false charges.

In February, the Kagoshima District Court cleared 12 people accused of vote-buying after discrediting the confessions of some of the defendants, who prosecutors said confessed to violating the election law.